More Wind Power Blowing Into New Mexico, Wirth To Push Campaign Finance Reform

Dec 27, 2016

Energy Companies Plan To Boost Wind Generation In New MexicoAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Energy companies plan to double the generating capacity of wind farms in eastern New Mexico over the next few years thanks in part to federal subsidies and improvements in technology.

State officials say more than a gigawatt of wind capacity is now under construction or planned in New Mexico.

If all of that comes on line, The Albuquerque Journal reports that would be enough to potentially supply nearly 700,000 homes every year.

Jeremy Lewis is head of the state's Energy, Conservation and Management Division. He says the cost of wind and solar have dropped precipitously and he expects more wind energy to be connected to the state's economy in the future.

Still, some question whether the uptick will be temporary since subsidies will be phased out by 2020.

New Mexico Unveils New Anti-DWI AdsThe Associated Press 

Gov. Susana Martinez has unveiled New Mexico's latest round of television ads aimed at curbing drunken driving.

The governor said during a news conference in Albuquerque on Tuesday that law enforcement will be out in full force looking for suspected drunken drivers during the New Year's holiday and through the month of January.

The new ads provide a firsthand perspective of what it's like to be pulled over for driving drunk. The ads will run through Jan. 9.

The governor also released a list of the top 10 most wanted DWI fugitives. It includes the names and photographs of those who have more than a few DWI offenses on their records.

Ex-Inmate Alleges Mistreatment When Asking For MedicationThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal 

A former inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center says in a lawsuit that a sergeant at the jail used an inflammatory spray and a Taser on him when he asked for his antidepressants and breathing medication.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that former inmate Justin Allen alleges that he repeatedly asked jail officers for his medication, and eventually Sgt. Eric Allen went to his cell and told him that he wasn't going to get medication for any reason.

The lawsuit alleges Eric Allen then started spraying inflammatory spray into Justin Allen's cell and shot him with a Taser weapon even though he was complying.

Jail spokeswoman Nataura Powdrell-Moore says the encounter has been put under investigation.

She declined to comment further.  The lawsuit was last month.

New Mexico Lawmaker Wants Moratorium On New Charter Schools The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

A lawmaker wants to put a moratorium on opening new charter schools in New Mexico for at least two and a half years so the state can evaluate the schools and find ways to ensure they're delivering high-quality education.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Democratic Rep. Christine Trujillo of Albuquerque has introduced a bill that would halt approval of new charter applications between June 2017 and January 2020.

Many charter schools in New Mexico also have been under scrutiny in the past year for their financial management practices.

Trujillo says the state has been moving so fast on this front that it doesn't have enough time to oversee how they are functioning.

Charter school advocates oppose her bill.

New Mexico Gets Nearly $11M In Homeless Grants Associated Press

Dozens of organizations and local governments around the state will share nearly $11 million from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department to address homelessness.

The organizations and municipalities serve about a third of New Mexico's counties and will use the money for emergency shelters, rental assistance and programs aimed at getting people into stable, permanent housing.

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation say the funding represents about a half-million dollars more than what the state received last year.

Nationally, the federal housing agency says homelessness is declining. The annual survey done on a single night last January found nearly 550,000 people who experienced homelessness. Of those, most were in emergency shelters, safe havens or in housing programs.

New Mexico Police To Crack Down On Drunken Drivers Associated Press

New Mexico State Police and other law enforcement agencies are planning to crack down on drunken drivers in January.

State police will be conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in all of the state's 33 counties next month. They'll also be looking for drivers whose licenses are expired or revoked and those who are driving without insurance.

Authorities say the checkpoints are part of ongoing efforts to curb alcohol-related traffic deaths through media attention and intensive advertising.

The latest data from the state Transportation Department and the University of New Mexico shows 143 people have died in alcohol-related crashes from January through November. That accounts for nearly 40 percent of the state's traffic fatalities in the first 11 months of the year.

In 2015, 120 alcohol-related traffic fatalities were recorded.

Candidates Who Use Public Financing Won't Likely Get Boost Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Mayoral candidates in Albuquerque who opt into public financing won't likely get an extra financial boost in time to shape the 2017 mayoral race.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that city councilors had hoped to add a public-financing question to the Feb. 7 ballot, which is when voters head to the polls for a Board of Education election.

But officials say the deadline has passed to publish legal notices needed to combine a special city election with the school one.

The upshot is that mayoral candidates who qualify for public financing are likely to end up with about $379,000 during the campaign.

The proposal to boost the funding would've given them about $663,000.

The smaller amount might persuade some candidates to avoid public financing and just raise their own money.

Proposed Center Would Help People Transition Out Of JailKOB-TV

Lawmakers in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are looking at opening a center where people released from the county jail would get resources, clothing and connections to housing and medical services.

KOB-TV reports the center is supposed to be a transition point between jail and the outside world. They could decide this week whether to approve the idea, which would cost about $300,000 to renovate an existing site and $1 million to operate it.

Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins said about half of inmates have a behavioral health disorder that makes it more likely they will end up back behind bars. She said this center would help connect them with resources and transition back into the community.

Hart-Stebbins predicts the center would pay for itself because it would help reduce crime.

Former Inmate Sues Jail Sergeant Accused Of Excessive ForceAlbuquerque Journal

A former inmate at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center is suing a jail sergeant already involved in excessive force incidents.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Justin Allen contends Eric Allen used a Taser and inflammatory spray on him when he asked for his antidepressant medication and an inhaler for breathing problems. He’s suing Eric Allen, two other guards, and Tom Swisstack, former deputy county manager.

Eric Allen has been on paid administrative leave for much of the past year over another incident where he was accused of excessive force on an inmate getting medical treatment.

Eric Allen was also seen using force and inflammatory spray in a 2015 video that made national news against a female inmate.

MDC Spokeswoman Nataura Powdrell-Moore said the encounter between Eric Allen and Justin Allen was investigated earlier this year but would not comment further.

Agency: Female Wolf Introduced To Pack In 2014 Has OffspringAssociated Press

Arizona officials say a fostered pup introduced to a pack of Mexican gray wolves in 2014 has produced a wild offspring of her own.

The Game and Fish Department says a genetic test of an adult male showed it was the offspring of a male and a female. The female was fostered into the den of the Dark Canyon Pack in the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico.

Assistant Director Jim deVos of the Arizona agency says the development demonstrates that fostering Mexican wolves so they grow up wild can work and represents a step forward for wolf recovery.

The federal government is under court order to update its recover plan for the Mexican gray wolf, which has struggled to regain a foothold in the Southwest.

Wirth Plans Push On Campaign Finance ReformSanta Fe New Mexican

The new majority leader in the state Senate plans to propose a series of reforms around campaign finance laws.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Democrat Peter Wirth of Santa Fe wants more reporting on campaign fundraising and spending. He also wants restrictions on political action committees and more power for prosecutors to go after violators of campaign finance laws.

This is an issue Wirth has worked on for years and he pushed a very similar bill in last year’s legislative session. It passed the Senate but died in the House. He says there is support and opposition for the effort on both sides of the political aisle.

Political action committees raised about $16.5 million from 2015 through Dec. 3 and spent nearly $16 million according to New Mexico In Depth.