KUNM

Program To Combat Crime On Tribal Lands Expands, Federal Grant Funds Tapped For Medical Marijuana

Apr 19, 2017

Sessions Expands Program To Combat Crime On Tribal LandsThe Associated Press

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced plans to allow more tribal nations to tap into national information systems to fight crime and bolster relationships with Native America.

His announcement on Tuesday is part of a broader program to support anti-crime efforts on reservations from the Puget Sound area of Washington state to the Adirondacks in New York.

Law enforcement officials on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana began training this week on accessing the federal data.

Fort Peck is among 10 tribal regions that will join nine other tribes that can already tap into the databases as part of the program launched by the Obama administration in 2015.

Fort Peck authorities hope the resources will help them deal with a meth problem and other crimes.

Federal Grant Funds Tapped For Medical MarijuanaThe Associated Press

An audit by independent investigators with the U.S. Justice Department has determined a New Mexico program that helps crime victims allowed federal grant funds to be used to reimburse the purchase of medical marijuana.

The review by the agency's inspector general was released this week. It identified $7,630 in questioned costs.

Officials noted that while medical marijuana is legal in New Mexico, the substance is still banned under federal law and not an expense that can be covered by grant funding.

New Mexico's Crime Victims Reparation Commission has received more than $21 million in grants in recent years to help victims of crime by connecting them with counseling, therapy and other services.

Documents show the commission has changed its policies as a result of auditors' recommendations and if medical marijuana is prescribed, it will be covered with state funding.

New Mexico City Steps Up Water Conservation EnforcementThe Associated Press & The Carlsbad Current-Argus

The southern New Mexico city of Carlsbad has started its annual crackdown on residents not in compliance with the city's water conservation schedule.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that to save water in the hotter spring and summer months the city prohibits residents from watering their grass on Mondays. There is also no watering allowed any day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. when temperatures reach above 100 degrees.

The water conservation schedule, approved in a 2011 city ordinance, is in effect from April through September.

Carlsbad's director of utilities, Mike Hernandez, says people found violating the schedule will get three reminders before additional violations can be forwarded to police.

The ordinance is part of the city's 100-year plan to conserve water.

Santa Fe Requests Local Proposals For Wells Fargo DepositsThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Santa Fe is looking to spread its city accounts to community banks and credit unions now that its contract with Wells Fargo is set to expire in December.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/2pgn4zz ) Tuesday that the city wants to spread about $210 million in various accounts to community banks and credit unions.

The city has put out a request for proposals for banking services. City officials say community reinvestment practices, local employment and financial education will all come into play.

Wells Fargo has been under federal scrutiny for alleged fraudulent account practices.

The city's spokesman says community advocates have been concerned about those claims and Wells Fargo-backed projects threatening the environment.

A bank official, however, says the city's money might remain with Wells Fargo.

New Mexico Assets Capture Attention Of Oil And Gas Giants- Associated Press

As New Mexico's elected leaders wrangle over raising taxes to plug a budget shortfall, major multinational energy companies have quietly spent more than $13 billion in recent months on assets in the state's oil and gas hot spots.

The new wave of investment bodes well for the industry being able to generate much-needed revenues for the struggling state over the long haul, analysts said.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's Global Ratings predicted a turnaround in economic output for New Mexico in the near term, pointing to more growth in the oil and mining sectors in 2017.

The interest from companies such as Texas-based EOG Resources, ExxonMobil and Marathon Oil started last fall and is carrying into this year despite prices remaining around $50 a barrel.

New Mexico Housing Market On Pace For Record Year- Associated Press

Real estate agents say 2017 could be a record-setting year for New Mexico's housing market.

The Realtors Association of New Mexico reports that 1,760 properties were sold in March, representing an increase of more than 6 percent over the same period last year.

The figures also show that 19 counties across the state reported an increase in sales for the first quarter over the first three months of 2016.

Association officials say inventory is still tight in many areas and homes that are priced right are going quickly and sometimes getting multiple offers. Median prices are also on the rise, up 4 percent statewide from last year at this time.

The group says property sales contributed over $1 billion to New Mexico's economy during the first quarter.

New Mexico Construction Contractor Announces US Senate Bid- Associated Press

Commercial construction contractor Mike Rich of Albuquerque is pursuing the GOP nomination to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich — becoming the first challenger in the 2018 political race.

Announcing his federal campaign filing Thursday, Rich emphasized his support for the commercial development of natural resources on federal lands as a way to boost the New Mexico economy.

Rich's campaign is his first for elected public office. Democrats have held both New Mexico Senate seats since GOP Sen. Pete Domenici retired in January 2009. Sen. Tom Udall succeeded Domenici and is serving a second term through 2020.

Under an appointment by GOP New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Rich helps resolve wage disputes on government contracts as a member of the state Labor and Industries Commission.

Rich also signaled public safety issues as a top priority, while tracing New Mexico's difficulties in addressing violent crime and drug overdoses to illegal drugs crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mother, Children Injured In Crash With Albuquerque Officer- Associated Press

Authorities say an Albuquerque police officer responding to a call collided with another vehicle, critically injuring a woman and two children.

The woman and both children were taken to the hospital after the Monday crash. Police say the officer suffered a broken leg and broken ankle.

Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy Felicia Romero said the children had been stabilized and remained in intensive care Tuesday. She had no other information to release since the investigation was ongoing.

Albuquerque police say the officer's lights and sirens were on as he headed to a call involving a man armed with a machete at a grocery store.

The crash happened at an intersection as the woman's vehicle turned in front of the police car.

Construction Begins On $400M New Mexico, Texas Power Line – The Associated Press

Xcel Energy has started construction on a 345-kilovolt transmission line between Texas and New Mexico to extend its electrical distribution system.

Formal groundbreaking ceremonies were held Tuesday near Hobbs, New Mexico, on the $400 million project to eventually connect to a substation north of Abernathy, Texas.

An Xcel statement says the first segment will involve a substation southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The new transmission line should run about 240 miles (386 kilometers) and be in service by 2018.

A similar Xcel project was completed in 2014 connecting the Texas substation to a unit near Woodward, Oklahoma. When all the segments are completed by 2020, the power line is expected to stretch more than 400 miles (644 kilometers) from western Oklahoma to southeastern New Mexico.

Albuquerque Public Schools Could Cut Much More Than Sports- Associated Press & The Albuquerque Journal

Middle school sports being cut is just one of many possible setbacks for Albuquerque Public Schools.

The Albuquerque Journal reported  Tuesday that Superintendent Raquel Reedy told the school board the district is struggling to cover a "staggering" projected budget cut.

Reedy says eliminating competitive basketball, volleyball and track and field would save about $600,000.

She also says larger class sizes, a heavier high school schedule and reduced employee workdays are options to make up the deficit.

The state education department says the district is spending $1.4 million each year on public relations and lobbying, which could be cut to save elsewhere.

The district claims it only pays about $680,000 for that communications staff.

A vote on the cuts is scheduled for May 22.

APS Considering Middle School Sports Cuts - The Albuquerque Journal

The Superintendent for Albuquerque Public Schools, Raquel Reedy, spoke to the board of education yesterday about cutting middle school athletics due to the state’s proposed budget cuts. 

The proposal created an outpouring of angry parents and condemnation from Gov. Susana Martinez, who is in a stalemate with the state legislature over the budget.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Governor’s office hit back at APS yesterday, calling for a reversal of the decision.

Board members mentioned athletics in middle school is especially important to lower-income families who can’t afford club sports.

Reedy said the district has to look at every option.  She said more tough decisions are coming.  

Governor Says She’ll Approve Funding For Higher Education – The Santa Fe New Mexican

Governor Susana Martinez repeated her commitment not to raise taxes Monday even as she reassured people at a press conference in Española that her veto of all the state’s higher education funding didn’t mean that colleges and universities wouldn’t get any funding for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Republican governor’s comments came a day after university presidents from across the state called for her to restore funding for the schools.

Democrats who control the state legislature passed a budget package including $350 million dollars in tax and fee increases. Martinez campaigned on a pledge not to raise taxes and has maintained that stance even though some Democrats and a key Republican say she told them she would accept some increases.

Her veto of all of the state’s higher education funding drew criticism locally and nationally.

Mother, Children Injured In Crash With Albuquerque Officer – The Associated Press

Authorities say an Albuquerque police officer responding to a robbery call collided with another vehicle, critically injuring a woman and two children.

The woman and both children were taken to the hospital after the Monday crash. Police say the officer suffered a broken leg and broken ankle.

Police spokesman Officer Simon Drobik says the officer's lights and sirens were on as he headed to a call involving a man armed with a machete at a grocery store.

The crash happened at an intersection.

Drobik says the officer had the green light when the woman's vehicle turned in front of the police car.

The crash remains under investigation.

Construction Begins On $400M New Mexico, Texas Power Line – The Associated Press

Xcel Energy has started construction on a 345-kilovolt transmission line between Texas and New Mexico to extend its electrical distribution system.

Formal groundbreaking ceremonies were held Tuesday near Hobbs, New Mexico, on the $400 million project to eventually connect to a substation north of Abernathy, Texas.

An Xcel statement says the first segment will involve a substation southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The new transmission line should run about 240 miles (386 kilometers) and be in service by 2018.

A similar Xcel project was completed in 2014 connecting the Texas substation to a unit near Woodward, Oklahoma. When all the segments are completed by 2020, the power line is expected to stretch more than 400 miles (644 kilometers) from western Oklahoma to southeastern New Mexico.

Santa Fe Mayor Scraps 5 Percent Raises For City Employees – The Santa Fe New Mexican

Santa Fe’s mayor is killing a plan to give a 5 percent raise to all city employees this year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Mayor Javier Gonzales blamed an honest staff mistake estimating the cost of the proposal and the cost of closing the Santa Fe University of Art and Design – the city leases the property to the school and still owes on the purchase.

Instead, Gonzales’ administration is recommending a 2 percent cost of living increase and the implementation of a merit-based pay system.

Resistance Grows To School Closure Options In Santa Fe – The Santa Fe New Mexican

The Santa Fe Public School District is facing a budget shortfall of nearly $9 and a half million dollars and according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, is considering options that include closing E.J. Martinez and Nava elementary schools. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports students and parents marched Monday to a meeting with district officials.

The school board will consider money-saving options at its meeting Tuesday. School Board President Lorraine Price said a vote on closing schools will not take place tonight, though, and not until more is known about the savings and impact on the community.

Corrections Officer In Albuquerque Accused Of Sexual Assault – The Associated Press

Authorities say a corrections officer at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque has been arrested. Jail officials say Wendy Vowinckel is accused of sexually assaulting a male inmate. They say she was taken into custody after information was investigated last Friday by county sheriff's detectives.

Authorities say Vowinckel was booked into jail Monday night on four counts of criminal sexual penetration and one count of intimidating or threatening a witness.

Jail officials say Vowinckel is being held without bond and has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of internal and external investigations.

It's unclear if she has a lawyer yet. Vowinckel was hired by the detention center in September 2011.

Albuquerque Police Say 1 Dead In Six-Car Pileup – The Associated Press

Police say one person is dead and several others are injured following a six-car pileup along a busy road on Albuquerque's southeast side.

Police say the crash happened Monday afternoon near the intersection of Central Avenue and Wyoming Blvd. They did not immediately identify the person who died and said several others were injured and taken to the hospital.

The road was cordoned off as police investigated.

Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Officer Fred Duran says speed was likely a factor in the crash but investigators were still trying to determine what happened.

Sheriff's Office Denies Accusations Leveled In Lawsuit – The Farmington Daily Times

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office is denying allegations in a lawsuit that officers slammed a motorist's face into the ground, knocked him unconscious and denied him timely medical care during a September 2016 traffic stop.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that the sheriff's office made the denials in its response to a lawsuit filed in December by Preston Wilson.

Wilson was pulled over after authorities received reports of erratic driving involving a vehicle that matched the description of his vehicle.

Wilson was arrested at the traffic stop. Court records show he later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of driving while under the influence and of driving on a revoked license.

Wilson's attorney claims his client has incurred more than $30,000 in medical expenses from the alleged incident.

The defendants are seeking dismissal of the complaint.

University Presidents Want Funding Restored In New Mexico – The Associated Press

A council of university presidents from around New Mexico is asking that Gov. Susana Martinez restore some $745 million in funding to the state's public colleges and universities.

The council made its plea in a column published Sunday in the Albuquerque Journal.

New Mexico State University President Garrey Carruthers, a member of the council, said deep concern has spread across the state's higher education system since vetoes by Martinez defunded all state universities.

The Republican governor and the state Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, are in a standoff over the state budget. The governor disagrees with $350 million in tax increases approved by lawmakers to make up for dwindling revenues.

The university presidents say without funding, the tuition each student pays would increase dramatically.

Regents at New Mexico Highlands University have scheduled a special meeting Friday. The agenda includes tuition and fees.

Lawsuit Filed Over Sick Leave Policy For New Mexico Teachers – The Albuquerque Journal

A lawsuit has been filed alleging New Mexico has a policy of penalizing public school teachers in their evaluations if they take more than six days of sick time over the course of the school year, even if their contracts allow for more.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the lawsuit was filed March 30 on behalf of Logan Municipal Schools teacher Angela Medrow and seeks class-action status.

New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera announced earlier this month that teachers will be able to take six sick days before it impacts the attendance portion of their evaluations.

The lawsuit claims sick leave is private property that can't be taken without just compensation. It seeks an injunction to stop the department from considering sick leave in teacher evaluations.

Skandera says the department is reviewing the lawsuit.

Albuquerque Transit Project Unearths Remnants Of Old Trolley – KOB-TV

A major transportation project along Albuquerque's stretch of historic Route 66 has unearthed remnants of the city's original trolley system.

Albuquerque television station KOB-TV reports that construction crews stumbled upon what's believed to be pieces from the trolley system while working last week along Central Avenue.

The chunks of steel are being donated to the Albuquerque Museum.

Michael Silva with the Albuquerque Trolley Co., a private venture that operates tours in the city, says the original street car system shut down in 1927 as automobiles and roads began to take over.

The current construction project will transform Central Avenue into a rapid transit corridor with a nine-mile stretch of bus-only lanes and bus stations. The $119 million project is scheduled to be done by the end of the year.

New Mexico Wildlife Officials Warn Of Bear Activity – The Associated Press

New Mexico wildlife officials say bears are expected to be busy this spring after three years of good precipitation following what has been a long-running drought.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish on Monday issued a reminder for people to be aware of the greater chance of encountering bears and other native wildlife.

Department biologist Rick Winslow says males and young, independent bears are emerging from hibernation now and will be out foraging and seeking their own territory.

He says sows with cubs will follow in May, while cubs born last winter will be setting out on their own as their mothers seek to breed again.

Officials say residents in areas such as the foothills of Santa Fe and Albuquerque or rural portions of the state may have a greater chance of encountering bears.