KUNM

Legislators Concerned About Spaceport, Crime Is Focus Of ABQ Mayor Race

Sep 29, 2017

New Mexico Legislators Are Concerned About Spaceport's CostsThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

New Mexico lawmakers are questioning if more state funding is necessary for the commercial spaceport in the southern part of the state.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on Thursday that members of the Legislative Finance Committee held a hearing about the future of the facility where they questioned Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks about the business plan.

Hicks says the facility has the ability to be a commercial hub and it has advantages over competing spaceports, but it requires government funding to operate.

Republican state Sen. Sander Rue says legislators are concerned about how much money it will take to make the spaceport fully operational and more self-sustaining.

While Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant of the spaceport, Space X, Up Aerospace and EXOS Aerospace have all used the facility.

Crime Focus Of Open Albuquerque Mayor's RaceThe Associated Press

Seven candidates are vying to become the next mayor of New Mexico's largest city amid rising crime and pressures to revamp the Albuquerque Police Department.

Polls show Democrat and current State Auditor Tim Keller is leading the field. Former New Mexico Democratic Party chair Brian Colon and Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis are battling for the second spot.

This marks the first mayoral campaign in 20 years without an incumbent on the ballot.

The election is Tuesday. The ballot is crowded, and if no candidate gets 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will face off in a November runoff.

The top issue has been crime. FBI statistics released this week show violent crime in Albuquerque jumped nearly 16 percent in 2016 along with a similar double-digit increase in property crimes.

New Mexico Questions Spending On College Courses For KidsThe Associated Press

New Mexico officials are reconsidering whether increasingly popular college-level classes taken by high school students warrant growing public subsidies.

A progress report published Thursday by the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee shows that students who pursue dual-credit coursework that can count toward high school and college degrees tend to have higher academic aptitudes based on standardized testing.

The findings come as several states call into questions whether dual credit programs exposing students who need it the most to the rigors of collegiate studies so that they can avoid remedial college coursework graduate in reasonable time.

In New Mexico, total state spending on dual credit education has increased 60 percent since 2012 to $54 million, as classes shift to college faculty and campuses without a reduction in high school funding.

Supporters: Risk Assessment Key To Bail Reform In New MexicoThe Associated Press

The Drug Policy Alliance and others are joining in support of bail reforms in New Mexico, saying there's a need for more risk assessment tools to help judges determine whether defendants should be detained or released pending trial.

Officials with the alliance, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Rio Grande Foundation gathered Friday in Albuquerque to talk about protecting the fundamental principles of New Mexico's bail reform initiative as the state Supreme Court considers possible changes.

District attorneys from across the state proposed this week that the rules include more details about what judges can consider when assessing a defendant's risk.

The recommendations also suggest that the courts not require evidence in any particular form for pretrial detention hearings. Prosecutors say the current interpretation of the rules is draining resources and adding to an already burdensome caseload.

New Mexico District Attorneys Push For Changes To Bail Rules - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Top prosecutors from judicial districts across New Mexico say rules adopted earlier this year for overhauling the state's bail and pretrial detention system have led to confusion within the criminal justice system.

Several of the district attorneys gathered in Albuquerque on Thursday to discuss proposed changes to the bail reform rules that were adopted by the state Supreme Court and implemented in July.

The rules were in response to a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2016. The aim was to ensure dangerous defendants remain in custody pending trial, while allowing for the release of nonviolent suspects who might otherwise languish in jail because they cannot afford bail.

The district attorneys say there's no uniformity in how the rules are being interpreted in courtrooms across the state and that the language should be clarified.

New Mexico Questions Spending On College Courses For KidsAssociated Press

New Mexico officials are reconsidering whether increasingly popular college-level classes taken by high school students warrant growing public subsidies.

A progress report published Thursday by the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee shows that students who pursue dual-credit coursework that can count toward high school and college degrees tend to have higher academic aptitudes based on standardized testing.

The findings come as several states question the cost of dual credit programs exposing students who need it the most to the rigors of collegiate studies so that they can avoid remedial college coursework and graduate in reasonable time.

In New Mexico, total state spending on dual credit education has increased 60 percent since 2012 to $54 million, as classes shift to college faculty and campuses without a reduction in high school funding.

US Extends Contract For Cleanup Work At Nuclear LabAssociated Press

The U.S. Energy Department has extended a contract worth $65 million for environmental cleanup work at one of the nation's premier nuclear research laboratories.

With the extension announced this week, the private consortium that runs Los Alamos National Laboratory will be paid for an additional six months of work. The contract was set to expire Saturday.

The temporary cleanup contract was first extended in 2016. Officials say the latest extension will give the Energy Department more time to finish procurement of a long-term contract worth an estimated $1.7 billion over 10 years.

The contract was initially awarded as part of a shake-up that came after the lab improperly packed a drum of waste that was shipped to the federal government's underground repository in southern New Mexico. The resulting chemical reaction in 2014 caused a radiation release.

Crime, Police Reforms Focus Of Open Albuquerque Mayor's Race - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Seven candidates are vying to become the next mayor of New Mexico's largest city amid rising crime and pressures to revamp the Albuquerque Police Department.

Polls show Democrat and current State Auditor Tim Keller is leading the crowded field with former New Mexico Democratic Party chair Brian Colon and Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis battling for the second spot.

There are seven people on the ballot for mayor, and if no candidate gets 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will face off in a November runoff. FBI statistics released this week showed the violent crime in Albuquerque last year jumped around 16 percent.

This year's race is the first mayoral campaign in 20 years without an incumbent on the ballot.

The election is Tuesday. Voter turnout is expected to be low.

Albuquerque Businessman Chaves Dropping Out Of Mayor's RaceAssociated Press

Albuquerque businessman Ricardo Chaves says he's dropping out the city's mayoral race.

Chaves said in a statement Thursday that he's aware of the poll numbers and has become convinced that he'll come up short of votes in Tuesday's election.

Chaves says he's now endorsing fellow Republican Dan Lewis for mayor.

He says Lewis has the best chance of being one of the final two candidates to make it into a runoff election.

There are eight people running for mayor and if no candidate gets 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will face off in a November runoff.

This year's race is the first mayoral campaign in 20 years without an incumbent on the ballot.

Richard Berry has been Albuquerque's mayor since 2009 and isn't seeking re-election to a third term.

Sunday Deadline For Interest In Navajo Coal Plant Approaches - By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

A coal-fired plant in far northern Arizona built to deliver water to the state's desert region is retiring in 2019 unless a new owner can be found.

The deadline for interested buyers is Sunday.

The operator of the Navajo Generating Station says the deadline determines whether to maintain the plant for long-term use or plan for tearing it down.

The plant owners voted earlier this year to shutter the plant in favor of energy produced by natural gas.

The plant's coal supplier says coal can be competitive and is looking for new plant owners.

Peabody Energy spokeswoman Beth Sutton won't say if a serious contender has been found. But she says Peabody is pleased with the firms showing interest.

The generating station is on the Navajo Nation near Page.

Court Invalidates 10 Vetoes By New Mexico GovernorAssociated Press

New Mexico's secretary of state says 10 bills have been enacted into law after a court found that vetoes by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez were invalid.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Thursday that a state district court judge denied a request to block the bills while the governor prepares an appeal.

Members of the Legislature, which is led by Democrats, say Martinez either failed to indicate the reason why she vetoed the bills or missed a three-day deadline. Those veto requirements are designed to help lawmakers respond to the governor's concerns and to keep the Legislature operating efficiently.

If left standing, the newly enacted laws open the way for industrial hemp research programs and allow high school students to count computer science classes toward core math credits needed for graduation.

New Mexico Supreme Court Strikes Down Judge's Gag OrderAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court overturned a judge's order barring a newspaper reporter and other people attending an open trial in a high-profile business lawsuit from disclosing information the judge deemed confidential.

The Albuquerque Journal and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government brought the issue to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday after Judge Alan Malott warned the audience at the start of a trial in April that he would jail those who leaked court discussion of financial information involving the Abruzzo family-owned Alvarado Realty.

The newspaper's attorneys argued the Albuquerque judge's order was an unconstitutional prior restraint while a lawyer with the state attorney general's office maintained that there were serious privacy concerns in the Abruzzo case.

The Supreme Court panel struck down the order after brief deliberation.

Managers Monitor For Rock Falls At Nuclear Waste DumpAssociated Press

Managers at the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository in southeastern New Mexico say monitors have picked up on increasing movement, indicating instability of the walls and ceilings in an area of the facility that has been closed off for more than a year.

Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant say there's a potential for falling rock inside one of the disposal rooms.

They say rock falls are not uncommon in areas where crews have been unable to perform regular maintenance. A rock fall last November forced a brief evacuation, but there were no injuries or contamination.

The repository began accepting shipments earlier this year after a nearly three-year shutdown that stemmed from a radiation release. The incident was caused by a chemical reaction inside a container of waste shipped from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Commission Awards $8.6M Contract For Bonito Lake RestorationAlamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

Alamogordo City Commissioners approved a contract with Smithco Construction to complete the Bonito Lake restoration project.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports the city approved an $8.6 million deal on Tuesday.

Bonito Lake, which is used for drinking water and recreation, was damaged after a wildfire broke out on June 8, 2012.

While the fire didn't directly damage Bonito Lake, nearby debris and sediment from the fire flowed into the lake after monsoonal rains caused heavy flooding from the wildfire burn scar.

The debris clogged the pipeline that Alamogordo used as a water source. The maintenance barn, which housed about 25 years of records for Bonito Lake, was also lost in the fire.

The city put the Bonito Lake restoration project out to bid in July and received four responses.

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