Ruling May Come Friday On Transit Lawsuit, Health Company To Add 300 Jobs

Jul 29, 2016

Judge To Rule Friday Today On Transit Lawsuit – Albuquerque Journal

A federal judge plans to issue his ruling today on a lawsuit over a controversial project that would create dedicated rapid transit bus lanes along nine miles of Central Avenue in Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Judge Kenneth Gonzales presided over a second day of testimony in the case on Thursday that included one witness tearfully predicting a "cultural catastrophe" if the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project moves forward.

Maria Bautista, one of the opponents suing to stop the plan, said it would destroy the ambience of the old Route 66. Opponents also say it will cause more congestion and hurt businesses. Advocates say it will bring more economic development.

The suit contends the Federal Transit Administration should have required a more thorough environmental analysis before approving the project. Most of the funding for the $119 million project comes from a federal grant.

New Mexico Environment Secretary Flynn Resigns – The Associated Press

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn is stepping down.

Department spokeswoman Allison Scott Majure confirmed Friday that Flynn is resigning Aug. 12.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Flynn in 2013 to lead the state's environment department after a retirement forced her to reshuffle her cabinet.

Flynn previous had been the agency's top lawyer for two years. He was the administration's main negotiator for an agreement earlier in 2013 with federal regulators and the state's largest utility for reducing pollution from a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

During his confirmation hearing, Flynn faced objections of some lawmakers and public-interest groups who questioned his role in the crafting of regulations they said would allow groundwater pollution by copper mines.

State Says Marijuana Cannot Be Certified 'New Mexico True'The Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

State officials say no matter where marijuana is grown it is not eligible for New Mexico True certification.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Ultra Health President Duke Rodriguez says he has been denied the chance to participate in the New Mexico Tourism Department initiative despite the fact that his product — medical marijuana — meets the requirements.

The program is aimed at promoting products made, raised or grown in New Mexico.

Rodriguez, who used to be the Human Services Department Secretary, says he applied for entry into the True program earlier this year.

Tourism Department spokeswoman Heather Briganti says the program was designed for products like wool blankets or raised beef that can be enjoyed and taken home and medical marijuana does not fall in that category.

Lack Of Rain, Hot Weather Plagues AlbuquerqueThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

Data from the National Weather Service shows Albuquerque may be facing its third-driest year ever.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Albuquerque's rainfall total for the year was only 1.61 inches as of Thursday. The average for this point in the year is 4.47 inches.

The New Mexico Drought Monitoring Workgroup also released data Thursday showing that more than 21 percent of the state is in moderate drought and nearly all of it is abnormally dry.

Royce Fontenot, a senior hydrologist for NWS in Albuquerque, says there been a trend toward dryness but notes that the region is only a third of the way through its monsoon season.

Albuquerque gets most of its moisture through the monsoon season, which ends Sept. 30.

DOE Estimates Lower Cost For Los Alamos CleanupThe Associated Press

The federal government has estimated the cost of cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory at about $1 billion less than estimates provided by New Mexico officials earlier this year.

The Department of Energy says it will cost about $2.9 billion through 2035 to clean up decades of radioactive and hazardous waste left over from nuclear weapons work at the lab. DOE officials said at a Wednesday presentation that the number is on top of $3.2 billion already spent on the cleanup work.

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said in March that the two decades' worth of work would add up to at least $4 billion.

Environment department spokeswoman Allison Scott Majure called the federal figure "entirely too optimistic."

Fed Estimates On LANL Cleanup $1 Billion Less Than State NumbersSanta Fe New Mexican

A federal official with the Department of Energy said cleaning soil and water contaminated by nuclear work at Los Alamos National Laboratory over 70 years will cost about $3 billion.

But the Santa Fe New Mexican reports state officials and nuclear watchdogs say that figure is far below what it will actually cost.

Earlier this year, Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said the cleanup would run about $255 million a year, or $4 billion.

Jay Coghlan with Nuclear Watch New Mexico, has criticized state and federal officials over cleanup delays. He said the lower figures indicate the Energy Department will leave toxic waste in place with a cap rather than moving it to another facility, such as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico.

Albuquerque Health Care Industry Company To Add 300 JobsAssociated Press

An Albuquerque -based business in the health care industry will add 300 jobs under an expansion.

An announcement Thursday by the New Mexico Economic Development Department says Unity BPO will hire skilled clinical analysts to provide application support to doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

According to the department, the jobs will have annual salaries ranging from $38,000 to $90,000.

A state job training program is providing the company $516,000 to hire and train workers, and Unity CEO Stephan Wade says the state incentives are helping the company to grow.

Gallinas River Flow Prompts Water Restrictions In Las Vegas Las Vegas Optic, Associated Press

Low flow levels in the Gallinas River have prompted Las Vegas officials to impose water restrictions in the northeast New Mexico city.

The Las Vegas Optic reports that water restrictions that went into effect Monday only allow city water customers to water their outdoor vegetation three days a week and prohibit the washing of cars except at car washes. Water customers are also asked not to fill pools or turn on fountains that don't recirculate water.

City Manager Richard Trujillo says the decision comes after the city's latest water report shows that the Gallinas River flow was at 2.096 million gallons a day last week. During the same week last year, the river flow was 19.851 million gallons a day. He says the restrictions are proactive.

Judge Hears Motions In Case Of APD Shooting Of Homeless ManKOB-TV, Albuquerque Journal

Hearings are underway in a case against former Albuquerque Police officers charged with second-degree murder in the death of a homeless camper in Albuquerque.

KOB-TV reports Bernalillo County District Judge Alisa Hadfield began hearing a slew of motions over who will be allowed to testify and what evidence can be introduced in the case of Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez.

Perez and Sandy shot and killed James Boyd in March 2014 after a lengthy standoff. Police say Boyd threatened officers with knives. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports prosecutors want to exclude a video of the standoff shot by a nearby resident. An attorney for Perez wants the court to exclude a witness who will allegedly testify about a code of silence among officers in the Albuquerque Police Department.

Sandra Cisneros: New Mexico Needs 'Truth And Reconciliation'  - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Noted Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros says New Mexico needs a "truth and reconciliation commission" like South Africa to address its history of violence between Hispanics and Native Americans.

Cisneros told The Associated Press this week that such a commission could help bridge divisions between descendants of Spanish settlers, Mexican immigrants, and American Indians.

Her comments come as Native American students are seeking to change the seal of the University of New Mexico. The students say the seal with a Spanish conquistador and white settlers refers to the state's violent past and makes American Indians students feel uncomfortable.

Cisneros says she considered relocating to New Mexico but changed her mind because she felt some of the state's Hispanics looked down on down on Americans of Mexican descent.

"The House On Mango Street" Novel Turned Into Art ExhibitAssociated Press

The National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque has turned the novel "The House on Mango Street" by acclaimed Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros into an art exhibit.

Cisneros, one of the nation's most celebrated Latina authors, this week visited the art inspired by her 1984 novel of a poor Latina living in Chicago.

"The House on Mango Street: Artists Interpret Community" features major themes of the book, including hope, personal dreams, hardship, disillusionment, and family.

The novel "The House on Mango Street" centers on Esperanza Cordero, a young Mexican-American girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. It has been read in thousands of high school and college classes across the country.

The exhibition is organized by the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.

UNM Improves Handling Of Sex Assault CasesAssociated Press

University of New Mexico officials say they are making progress in improving a system on campus that once failed victims of sexual assault.

University President Robert Frank told a state lawmakers Thursday that the school has fixed policies and improved communication across departments for investigating sexual assaults.

The university came under scrutiny in a U.S. Justice Department investigation this year that concluded the school's system for investigating sexual assault and harassment had failed students and was not in compliance with Title IX. The federal law prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds.

Frank says that prior to the investigation, an internal review also found the school's policies and procedures for investigating sexual assault and harassment could leave victims feeling lost and unserved by campus officials.

Navajo Nation Leader Wants Action Against Sexual HarassmentAssociated Press

The only female delegate to the Navajo Nation Council says she's been subject to sexist comments in that role and little is being done to change a culture of sexual harassment at the top level of tribal government.

Amber Kanazbah Crotty — one of 23 council delegates — also said during a recent council meeting that she was groped while working as a legislative district assistant several years ago.

The federal Department of Justice says women in Indian Country are sexually abused at more than twice the rate of other women in the U.S.

Crotty says council delegates should do something about the problem and get training on sexual harassment.

Jared Touchin, a spokesman for Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates, said Bates is putting together training on sexual harassment. Bates did not respond to requests for an interview.

US Oil, Gas Applications Could Drop 40 PercentAssociated Press

U.S. officials say applications to drill for oil and gas on federal and Indian lands are expected to decrease 40 percent in coming years versus their historical average.

The projection comes as cheap prices have curtailed domestic energy exploration, driving down state and federal revenue.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Thursday will announce a proposal for all drilling applications to be filed online, in an effort to streamline the approval process.

The move follows years of criticism from the energy sector over the Obama administration's handling of drilling applications. Industry groups say lengthy delays drive up costs.

Bureau spokeswoman Bev Winston says the move to online permitting will allow 90 percent of applications to be completed within 115 days. The average time in 2015 was 220 days.