The Associated Press

Court Asked To Mull NM's Teacher Evaluation Plan

Dec 22, 2013
Photo via www.modoc.k12.ca.us

Teachers unions and some state lawmakers who are opposed to the New Mexico Public Education Department's teacher evaluation system are asking the state Court of Appeals to reconsider its contention that the program is invalid because it violates state laws.

New Mexico is among several states that will share $11 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for improving the quality of school meals.

The funding will help schools purchase needed equipment to make preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient.

In addition to New Mexico, 13 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam were selected to receive grants based on free- and reduced-price participation in the National School Lunch Program.

San Juan Citizens Alliance/EcoFlight / with permission

New Mexico's largest electric utility has a plan for replacing power that will be lost with the proposed shuttering of two units at a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico that has long been a target for environmentalists.

PNM filed its plan with state regulators late Friday.

While the utility isn't requesting a change in rates now, it's seeking permission to recover costs that will be associated with closing part of the San Juan Generating Station.

Wikimedia Commons

New Mexico's highest court legalized same-sex marriage today, unanimously declaring it unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to gay and lesbian couples.

New Mexico joins 16 states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage.

"The important thing is," said Peter Simonson, the Executive Director of the ACLU-New Mexico, "from this moment on, right now, same-sex couples can walk into any County Clerk's Office in the state of New Mexico and be sure that they will be married. That's their choice."

New Mexico State Police

Gov. Susana Martinez says she supports a decision by New Mexico State Police to fire an officer who shot at a minivan full of children during a chaotic October traffic stop.

Martinez said Monday the actions of Officer Elias Montoya were unacceptable and he should not have used deadly force.

No one was hurt in the shooting.

Montoya was fired Friday following an internal investigation and a disciplinary hearing. His attorneys say he plans to appeal.

cobalt123 via Flickr

Winter weather continues to produce difficult driving conditions on New Mexico highways and delays affecting public services.

Crews are plowing Interstate 40 between Clines Corner and Santa Rosa and Interstate 25 between Rowe and Raton.

Delayed openings Friday include state offices in Santa Fe. Schools with delays include Santa Fe Community College and Albuquerque's east mountain schools.

Image is in public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

A lawsuit says a New Mexico corrections officer used a "chemical agent" on a woman's genitals after authorities found a plastic baggie protruding from her vagina.

The federal lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico says the Bernalillo County corrections officer sprayed the chemical agents twice on the woman's genitals during a strip search in Nov. 2011.

ACLU officials say the chemical agent was pepper spray and was used to "punish" the woman.

NM Ski Areas Opening Early Due To Storm's Snowfall

Nov 26, 2013
Flickr Creative Commons

New Mexico's ski season is starting early because of the big snowstorm last weekend.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that ski areas planning to open Thanksgiving Day include Ski Santa Fe, Taos Ski Valley and Ski Apache near Ruidoso.

Ski Santa Fe has 15 inches of new snow, adding up to a 27-inch base.

Taos Ski Valley marketing director Adriana Blake says the resort got 26 inches of snow since Friday and she expects a 35-inch base.

Ski Apache reports 10 inches of new snow and has its snow-making machines going.

Groups Press EPA On Kirtland Fuel Spill Cleanup

Nov 26, 2013

Two New Mexico citizen groups are repeating demands for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an independent review of the Kirtland Air Force Base groundwater contamination.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Albuquerque-based Citizen Action and the environmental group Amigos Bravos sent a letter last week calling on the EPA to conduct its own preliminary assessment.

Dave McCoy of Citizen Action complained that the Air Force and state Environment Department are not pursuing cleanup "in any meaningful way."

Public domain image.

  A watchdog group has filed a lawsuit seeking the release of nuclear safety records for Sandia National Laboratories.

The suit filed Friday in federal court in Albuquerque alleges the National Nuclear Security Administration has withheld documents and work papers for more than two years about whether nuclear reactors at Sandia have experienced shutdowns, accidents or violated safety regulations.

It also alleges a continuing pattern and practice of wrongful delay by the NNSA to violate the Freedom of Information Act.

Storm Dumps Snow, Leaves 1 Dead In New Mexico, 7 Others Dead Across West

Nov 21, 2013
National Weather Service

UPDATE Mon 6:30a: Snow accumulation with gusty winds are expected today as wintry weather tapers off through tonight.


Snow showers crossing into New Mexico will continue through much of the morning. Local accumulations could reach 1-2"


North winds will develop over the northeast plains in the wake of the departing storm system this afternoon, with gusts expected to reach 50 miles an hour. 


Carrie Jung

The measure to ban abortions at 20 weeks has been defeated by Albuquerque voters. 

With 48 of 50 vote centers reporting, 54 percent of voters rejected the ordinance. Forty-five percent of voters supported it. 

Turnout in the city's special election surpassed turnout in the recent mayoral race and early voting played a large part. Nearly 44,000 voters cast their ballots early while over 33,000 voters went to the polls on election day. 

NM Experiencing Shortage Of Medical Marijuana

Nov 16, 2013
eggrole via Flickr

The demand for medical marijuana in New Mexico has outpaced production, leaving some patients to ration their supplies while others are being turned away.

A survey commissioned by the state Department of Health shows producers licensed under the program have turned away thousands of patients in recent months.

The 65-page report detailing the survey was provided to the Albuquerque Journal in response to a public records request.

Alegri / Creative Commons

Gov. Susana Martinez's administration says it will move forward with implementation of its teacher evaluation system despite opposition from some teachers and Democratic lawmakers.

Two state senators had asked Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera this week for more time to acclimate to the new rating system.

But The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the administration signaled it will not budge.

kevinspencer via Flickr

State officials say two of the behavioral health providers under investigation for possible fraud have agreed to pay New Mexico more than $4 million for the overbilling of services.

The Human Services Department announced Monday it is recovering $4 million from Presbyterian Medical Services and $240,000 from Youth Development Inc. in Albuquerque.

The settlements will clear the way for the state to restore Medicaid payments to the companies for mental health and substance abuse services they provide to needy New Mexicans.

The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments on same-sex marriage cases on October 23, 2013. It was the first time the state's highest court allowed a live broadcast of their proceedings. KUNM broadcast the oral arguments live. You can listen to them here. 

During the first hour, the justices heard arguments relating to the state's marriage statutes.

The second hour of arguments examined the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.

Lauri Rantala / Flickr

Curry County commissioners are considering a ban on electronic cigarettes.

The proposal is set to go before the commission early next month.

The Clovis News Journal reports that the proposal unveiled this week has drawn mixed reactions.

County manager Lance Pyle says it mirrors other bans adopted by cities and counties in the state. Violations would come with a $500 fine.

Kristian Høgsberg / Flickr

A cloud of habanero chile powder sent one woman to a hospital and hazardous materials crews to a Las Cruces industrial park.

Workers called 911 around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday complaining of irritated eyes, sore throats and bloody noses.

New Mexico State Police say a hazmat crew and emergency personnel responded to the scene.

Officials determined that habanero chile particles lingered in the cold evening air after employees finished their work, then went into ventilation systems.

A company in the Santa Teresa Industrial Park grinds chile pods into powder.


Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry was elected today for a second term. The Republican won more than 50 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff election with one of two challengers.

Berry had 73 percent of the vote among early and absentee ballots Tuesday and 68 percent of the total vote.

Former Deputy City Attorney Pete Dinelli had 27 percent of the vote and retired police sergeant Paul Heh had 3 percent.

Early and absentee votes represent about 40 percent of the total number of votes estimated to have been cast in this year's election.

by Andrew Goff

A former trustee of a New Mexico border town says his former police chief collected more than $2,000 a month from the Juarez Cartel and allowed its members to use the city's police cruisers.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that former Columbus village trustee Blas "Woody" Gutierrez testified Wednesday that former Police Chief Angelo Vega received $1,500 each time he allowed the cartel members to use village vehicles, including police cruisers, for drug and guns smuggling.

Gutierrez faces 10 years in federal prison for his guilty plea linked to a border gun smuggling ring.

The Albuquerque Police Department

A former Albuquerque police officer charged with beating a surrendering man has been found not guilty.

A jury acquitted Connor Rice of battery and aggravated battery on Thursday after deliberating more than three hours.

Connor Rice testified Wednesday that he was reacting to the suspect's efforts to resist arrest when he hit the 20-year-old in May 2012. Some of  the incident, including video of another officer putting his boot on the suspect's head, was recorded on the officer's lapel camera.  

Alegri / Creative Commons

Some New Mexico teachers are bristling at a new state program that offers a $5,000 stipend for those who agree to transfer from top-graded schools to low-graded ones.

Teacher union officials say the initiative by Gov. Susana Martinez's administration will be both ineffective and disruptive.

Meanwhile, an administration spokesman says the program is about helping students in struggling schools.

National Weather Service

Some areas of storm-weary New Mexico may see more severe weather.

The National Weather Service says northwestern and north central New Mexico could see "strong to severe" thunderstorms Sunday.

Forecasters say the storms could produce severe hail and strong wind gust up to 58 mph.

The storm comes as a strong low pressure system quickly advances toward the Four Corners region, including parts of Arizona, Colorado, and Utah.

The State Land Office has approved a proposal for a large wind energy project in central New Mexico that officials say could generate as much as $40 million for the state over 45 years.

Land Commissioner Ray Powell announced Thursday that Iberdrola Renewables of Portland, Ore., has won the right to lease nearly 34,000 acres of state trust land in Torrance County to develop a wind farm that ultimately could generate about 1,000 megawatts of electricity. That's enough to supply up to 400,000 homes.

karenandbrademerson via Flickr

Two of New Mexico's popular tourist destinations are open again as many parts of the state continue to clean up after heavy rains, unruly runoff and flooding.

Officials say there's still much work to be done in the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico, but the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument reopened Thursday and a few dozen visitors have already stopped by.

Monument volunteer Dave Young says the dwellings are accessible, but the visitors' center remains closed while officials inspect the safety of a bridge that leads to the building.

Heavy Rain Helping Out Some Farmers

Sep 18, 2013

The recent heavy rain and flooding in New Mexico were at least helpful to some farmers.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that last week's flood waters that flowed into Brantley Reservoir, where the Carlsbad Irrigation District stores water to send to farmers, turned out to be a boost.

Some Carlsbad-area will get an additional four-tenths of an acre-foot per acre for farmers in the Carlsbad Irrigation District.

Rrrodrigo via Flickr

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has filed a lawsuit seeking public disclosure of an audit that identified potential overbillings and fraud by providers of mental health and substance abuse services.

The Human Services Department has frozen payments to more than a dozen behavioral health providers because of the fraud allegations.

National Weather Service

UPDATE 12p: A planned emergency airlift of food, water and other supplies for a tiny New Mexico town isolated after weekend flooding has been called off.

New Mexico Department of Homeland Security spokesman Estevan Lujan said Tuesday that state authorities and the National Guard will deliver supplies by foot to residents of the privately run ghost town of Mogollon. Lujan says there was not enough space to land a helicopter.

A New Mexico man convicted of conspiring to steal money intended for voter education efforts has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A federal judge also ordered Joseph Kupfer of Rio Rancho to pay restitution to the state and the Internal Revenue Service.

The 50-year-old Kupfer and 65-year-old Armando C. Gutierrez of Corpus Christi, Texas, were found guilty in January.

Prosecutors say the two men conspired to get more money than they were due out of New Mexico's Help America Vote Act funds.

The indictment charged $2.5 million in fraud.

Glen Thamert

UPDATE 9/16 6p: New Mexicans remain on high alert to possible flash flooding as rain is expected to continue during the next few days.

Gov. Susana Martinez is traveling to three communities to inspect damage from flooding since last week, when heavy rains inundated what had been a drought-parched state.

Among her stops is Santa Rosa in eastern New Mexico, where officials are seeking a disaster declaration because flooding washed out roads and buckled pavement.