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New Mexico Seeks Comments On Statewide Bike Network, County Judge Removal Sought Over Emails

Oct 12, 2017

New Mexico Seeks Comments On Statewide Bicycle NetworkThe Associated Press

New Mexico transportation officials want to establish a statewide bicycle network and they're asking for the public's help.

The Transportation Department announced Wednesday that it has set up a website where cyclists and others can share information as part of the planning process for prioritizing routes that are safe and offer the most connectivity.

The agency has contracted with Bohannan Huston, Inc. and Alta Planning + Design to develop the NM Bike Plan. It's scheduled to be done by summer 2018.

Officials say the plan will help guide roadway improvements and incorporate bicycle infrastructure such as wide shoulders or separate trails as part of regularly-scheduled maintenance or major construction.

Bicycle planning is also being done on the regional level in the Albuquerque area, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Farmington.

Eddy County Magistrate Judge Removal Sought Over Emails – The Associated Press

A New Mexico agency charged with investigating judicial misconduct is seeking the removal of an Eddy County magistrate judge over racist and sexist emails.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission petitioned this week for a permanent removal from office of Eddy County Magistrate Court Judge Henry Castañeda.

According to the petition, Castañeda allegedly used state-owned equipment to accept and forward emails through his court account that contained "offensive, degrading, pornographic, racist and sexist" content.

The agency says the behavior violates the judiciary's code of conduct.

Castañeda served as a magistrate judge from 2003 through 2010, and took the bench again in 2013.

He did not immediately return a phone message.

Border Patrol Tests Camera-Toting BalloonThe Associated Press

The U.S. Border Patrol is considering another type of surveillance balloon that can be quickly moved to spot illegal activity, part of an effort to see if more eyes in the sky translate to fewer illegal crossings.

Agents in south Texas recently finished a 30-day trial of the camera-toting, helium-filled balloon made by Drone Aviation Holding Corp., a small startup that named former Border Patrol chief David Aguilar to its board of directors in January. The 3-year-old, money-losing company gave Aguilar options that may prove lucrative if it gets more orders for its proprietary model.

The trial comes as agents test hand-launched drones, which are relatively inexpensive but hampered by short battery life and weight limits. The Border Patrol has also used six large tethered balloons in Texas since 2012.

Alamogordo Enacts Temporary Ban On New BillboardsThe Associated Press

Alamogordo City Commissioners approved a six month ban on constructing new billboards within city limits.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports the resolution, which was approved Tuesday, is the latest development in the city's ongoing attempt to address residents' concerns with new billboards being erected around town.

An ordinance was brought before commissioners on Aug. 22, stating the building of new billboards would be unlawful and billboards already in place would have five years to be removed.

This item was ultimately tabled after two representatives from Lindmark and Lamar went before commissioners and said their companies were protected by federal and state statutes.

City Planner Darron Williams says the temporary ban would allow city staff and the commission enough time to work on the issue.

New Mexico Regulators Move Ahead With Clean Energy Proposal - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A New Mexico regulatory panel has narrowly cleared the way for more discussion on a proposed clean energy standard supporters say would protect utility customers and shareholders from the costs of future environmental regulations.

The Public Regulation Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to host workshops in Santa Fe next week.

Commissioner Patrick Lyons argued that the meetings should be held in northwestern New Mexico, where electric utilities are looking to retire their coal assets. The area is bracing for the partial closure of the San Juan Generating Station later this year.

Lyons says the economic effects on the region should be part of the discussion.

The proposed standard calls for utilities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that serve customers in the state by 4 percent a year through 2040.

Supreme Court Denies Petition For Help From Public DefendersAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court says it will not intervene on behalf of public defenders who say they are overwhelmed by cases from poor defendants.

Court officials on Wednesday confirmed the Supreme Court's unanimous denial of a petition for relief from the state's chief public defender.

The Law Offices of the Public Defender has said its attorneys in various parts of the state are wrongfully being forced to take on more cases than they can handle without neglecting indigent defendants who cannot otherwise afford an attorney.

State and local prosecutors insist the concerns are overblown, and a district judge has rejected attempts by defense attorneys to refuse new cases in southeastern New Mexico.

During oral arguments in July, public defenders suggested several ways to limit caseloads.

District Attorney Drops Charges Against Protest LeaderSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Prosecutors have dropped felony and misdemeanor charges against a woman accused of striking two Santa Fe police officers with a cardboard sign while protesting a re-enactment of Spanish conquistadors reclaiming the city from Pueblo Indians.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Jennifer Marley's attorney says the charges were dropped on the eve of a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, at which prosecutors would have had to detail evidence against Marley and try to convince a judge to let the case against her proceed.

Prosecutors may still refile the charges against Marley in a higher court or seek a grand jury indictment, but Marley's attorney, Dan Cron, says it is unlikely charges will be refiled.

District Attorney Marco Serna did not respond to messages seeking comment after business hours Tuesday.

New Mexico Lawmaker Donates Harvey Weinstein's ContributionsAssociated Press

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico donated money that was given to his campaign by Hollywood producer and Democratic Party benefactor Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein has recently been accused of rape and sexual harassment by multiple women — accusations that he has denied.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Tuesday that Weinstein donated a total of $5,400 to Heinrich's campaign.

Campaign spokeswoman Marsha Garcia says that money was donated to Community Against Violence, a nonprofit in New Mexico.

Searches of state and federal databases showed no other contributions by Weinstein to any other New Mexico politician.

Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty In Multiple Arson CasesAssociated Press

An Albuquerque man arrested following an arson fire inside an Old Navy store in November 2016 has pleaded guilty in that incident and others involving fires and acts of vandalism at businesses.

Prosecutors say 28-year-old David A. Hickman pleaded guilty Tuesday to five arson counts but acknowledged in his plea agreement to igniting fires at a total of nine businesses that month.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says the plea agreement includes a recommendation that Hickman be sentenced to a prison term of five to 20 years.

Hickman was arrested near the Old Navy store after a police officer responding to a report of small explosions saw Hickman running in and out of the store, which was on fire.

Hickman has been jailed since his arrest. His sentencing isn't yet scheduled.

New Mexico Seeks Comments On Statewide Bicycle NetworkAssociated Press

New Mexico transportation officials want to establish a statewide bicycle network and they're asking for the public's help.

The Transportation Department announced Wednesday that it has set up a website where cyclists and others can share information as part of the planning process for prioritizing routes that are safe and offer the most connectivity.

The agency has contracted with Bohannan Huston, Inc. and Alta Planning + Design to develop the NM Bike Plan. It's scheduled to be done by summer 2018.

Officials say the plan will help guide roadway improvements and incorporate bicycle infrastructure such as wide shoulders or separate trails as part of regularly scheduled maintenance or major construction.

Bicycle planning is also being done on the regional level in the Albuquerque area, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Farmington.

Navajo, Hopi Tribes Get Funding To Ease Coal Plant ShutdownAssociated Press

The federal government is awarding nearly $420,000 to the Navajo and Hopi tribes to prepare for the closure of a coal-fired power plant and mine.

The Navajo Generating Station in Page and the Kayenta Mine will shut down in 2019 unless a new owner for the power plant is found.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced financial support Wednesday for communities dealing with the declining use of coal.

The Navajo Nation will get nearly $155,000 for a commercial plan to ease the impacts of the shutdown.

The Hopi Tribe will receive about $265,000 to develop a business incubator program and to study economic development that's not tied to coal mining.

Another $250,000 goes to Arizona State University and Navajo County for projects related to the power plant and mine closures.

Lawsuit: New Mexico City Made Officers Target MinoritiesAssociated Press

Former officers say a southeastern New Mexico police department forced officers to target people of color to make quotas and retaliated against those who complained.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports three former Hobbs officers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging racial discrimination and retaliation within the Hobbs Police Department.

Court documents say one black officer heard another officer used a racial slur, and another black officer was excluded during his training from eating lunch with white trainees.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of black former officers Brandon Ellis and Vasshawn Robinson, as well as white former officer Jeremy Artis, seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

The city of Hobbs said in a statement the city had not been notified of the lawsuit.

Eddy County Magistrate Judge Removal Sought Over EmailsAssociated Press

A New Mexico agency charged with investigating judicial misconduct is seeking the removal of an Eddy County magistrate judge over racist and sexist emails.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission petitioned this week for a permanent removal from office of Eddy County Magistrate Court Judge Henry Castañeda.

According to the petition, Castañeda allegedly used state-owned equipment to accept and forward emails through his court account that contained "offensive, degrading, pornographic, racist and sexist" content.

The agency says the behavior violates the judiciary's code of conduct.

Castañeda served as a magistrate judge from 2003 through 2010, and took the bench again in 2013.

He did not immediately return a phone message.

California Company To Assess Uranium Contamination On Navajo NationAssociated Press

A California company has been awarded an $85 million contract to assess uranium contamination on and near the Navajo Nation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the contract Wednesday to Tetra Tech Inc., headquartered in Pasadena.

The EPA says the company will assess 30 abandoned mines on the vast reservation where uranium was extracted for wartime weapons.

Tetra Tech will work with Navajo Technical University to train Navajos on how to assess and clean up uranium waste. The company also will start an internship program to give students technical work experience.

The contract is partially funded by a 2015 settlement for the cleanup of over 50 abandoned uranium mines. The settlement resolved a legal battle over a spinoff of Kerr-McGee Corp., which once operated mines on the Navajo Nation.

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