Voters Reject Santa Fe Soda Tax, Spending On Soda Tax Tops $163 Per Vote

May 3, 2017

Santa Fe Voters Reject Soda Tax, Hand Rare Win To Industry - The Associated Press

Voters have rejected a measure that would have raised taxes on soft drinks in New Mexico's capital city, giving a rare victory to the beverage industry after a string of recent defeats at the ballot box.

The special election triggered a barrage of spending from outside organizations, including the soft-drink industry and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is a staunch supporter of taxes on sugary beverages.

The Santa Fe City Clerk's Office announced Tuesday the ballot initiative failed with 11,533 votes against and only 8,382 votes in favor. Opponents warned it would increase the cost of a can of soda by nearly 25 cents.

The tax was designed to expand preschool to 1,000 additional children, most of them from poor families.

Political Spending On Santa Fe Soda Tax Tops $163 Per VoteThe Associated Press

Political action committees spent at least $163 per vote to influence the outcome of a soda-tax initiative that was resoundingly rejected in a special election in New Mexico's state capital city.

The soft drink industry and a variety of health and community advocacy groups spent at least $3.25 million on Tuesday's vote in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The city was blanketed with fliers, yard signs, radio spots and social media ads for and against the tax, as professional canvassers knocked on the same doors repeatedly.

Election officials counted 19,915 ballots, with about 58 percent of voters rejecting the tax for early childhood education.

Campaign finance reports show New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg contributed $1.1 million to a pro-tax committee. The American Beverage Association spent $1.3 million against the tax.

New Sponsor Gets Naming Rights To UNM ArenasThe Associated Press

A home-remodeling business that operates in four states has bought the naming rights for the University of New Mexico's famed basketball arena and its football stadium for $10 million.

School officials and representatives of Dreamstyle Remodeling gathered at one of the company's showrooms in Albuquerque to make the announcement Wednesday.

The 10-year deal marks the largest philanthropic agreement in the athletic department's history.

A New Mexico native, company owner Larry Chavez says he wanted to support Lobo athletics given the dedication and passion he had witnessed among leaders within the athletics department. Discussions first began last summer.

He says the deal also will include contributions for the university's business management school, children's hospital and performing arts center.

Officials say Dreamstyle signage will be installed at the stadium and arena within the next 60 days.

Deputies Help Barefoot Man Who Ends Up Being Runaway InmateThe Associated Press

Sheriff's deputies had spotted a man walking barefoot down a New Mexico road with his feet full of cactus, so they offered him a ride.

Turns out, the man had escaped from the state penitentiary by walking out the front door. So instead of a homeless shelter, the deputies put him back behind bars.

The deputies found 30-year-old Raymond Lopez to be the runaway inmate pictured in manhunt flyers.

Lopez has been booked at the county jail on charges of escape and concealing identity.

Lopez told deputies after he had been caught that he found civilian clothes in a "shakedown cell." He put them on and walked out the unlocked front door.

Penitentiary spokesman S.U. Mahesh says a review of procedures will take place and whatever changes necessary for safety will be made.

Holloman AFB Investigates Cause Of Drone CrashThe Associated Press

Officials at an Air Force base in southern New Mexico say no one was injured after a drone crashed during a training mission.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports the 49th Wing Public Affairs at Holloman Air Force Base says first responders arrived at the Tuesday crash site to assist military and civilian personnel.

Public Affairs spokesman Arlan Ponder says the MQ-9 Reaper had been on its way back to the base when it crashed.

He says an investigation will be done to determine what caused the drone to go down.

The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, remotely piloted aircraft assigned to the base's 9th Attack Squadron. It is deployed against dynamic execution targets and used in intelligence operations.

The aircraft can cost up to $12 million.

Albuquerque Police Involved In Shooting – Associated Press

A suspect has suffered non-life threatening injuries after a shooting involving police officers on Albuquerque's northeast side.

Police say a homeowner called 911 about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The man says he was watching on a home surveillance system as a suspect burglarized his house.

The homeowner relayed a suspect description to a police dispatcher.

When officers arrived on scene, the suspect ran away from them and a short foot chase ensued.

A confrontation occurred and shots were fired.

Police say a gun believed to belong to the suspect was found at the scene.

The name of the wounded man wasn't immediately released, but police say he does have a previous criminal history.

Police say forensics will be conducted to determine how many officers fired their weapons.

Monitor Cites Lack Of Police Scrutiny In Use-Of-Force CasesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A federal court monitor says he's mystified and startled by the lack of scrutiny the highest ranking officers in the Albuquerque Police Department give use-of-force cases.

James Ginger made the comments in his latest report on the police department's progress in overhauling how it trains officers to use force and handle encounters with people suffering from mental illness.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the report was filed Tuesday in federal court. It covers the department's efforts from August 2016 through January 2017.

Ginger said his team noticed a palpable shift in the department's approach to reform but that supervisors and command-level officers made too many lapses when reviewing use-of-force cases.

The reforms are part of a 2014 settlement agreement reached between the city and the U.S. Justice Department.

Ex-Science Teacher Pleads Guilty In Meth Case In New MexicoAssociated Press

Authorities say a former science teacher has pleaded guilty to manufacturing methamphetamines in New Mexico.

Prosecutors say a judge has ordered 56-year-old John Gose to undergo a 60-day diagnostic evaluation before sentencing.

Gose pleaded guilty Monday to four meth-related charges in a Las Cruces courtroom.

Las Cruces police arrested Gose last October after a traffic stop.

Officers reported finding an ice chest in Gose's car that contained glassware, rubber tubing and chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamines.

Police later searched his property and found ingredients to make at least one pound of meth.

Authorities say Gose taught eighth-grade science at Camino Real Middle School from August 2013 through February 2016.

He previously taught science for 8 ½ years at Irvin High School in El Paso, Texas before resigning in December 2008.

Auditor Alleges $850K Stolen From Rural Water AssociationAssociated Press

The state auditor's office is accusing a former office manager of stealing $850,000 from a rural drinking water association that serves thousands of people in southeastern New Mexico.

State Auditor Tim Keller confirmed Tuesday that his office has forwarded to authorities information about the apparent theft from the Otis Mutual Domestic Water Consumers and Sewage Works Association.

No charges have been filed, but the auditor's office says the manager has resigned. The manager wasn't named in the auditor's letter.

Financial discrepancies were identified during preparation for the association's annual audit. Officials say the office manager's credit card was used for cash advances at casinos in New Mexico and other states starting in March 2015.

Keller says the money was meant for general operations and maintenance of the water system and may include both federal and state funds.

Border Patrol Brings Stepped-Up Recruiting To Fairs, Rodeos - By Astrid Galvan, Associated Press

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is casting a wide net to recruit more Border Patrol agents and customs officers to protect the nation's borders.

The agency is recruiting at events like massive music festival Country Thunder and the Professional Bull Riders rodeo.

Customs and Border Protection has already been hiring for several years, but now President Donald Trump has ordered an additional 5,000 positions within the Border Patrol. The Office of Field Operations, the agency that oversees customs officers, also has been hiring for several years.

Customs officers and Border Patrol agents work in different agencies but fall under the umbrella of Customs and Border Protection.

About 30,000 people visit Country Thunder each day during its weekend-long run in April in Florence, Arizona.

The Border Patrol has nearly 20,000 agents nationwide, and there are about 23,000 customs officers.

Devon Energy To Sell $1 Billion In Assets - Associated Press

Devon Energy Corp. plans to sell off $1 billion worth of assets to focus more on drilling in Oklahoma, west Texas and New Mexico.

The company said on Tuesday that the sales are expected to be completed during the next 18 months and will include part of its holdings in the Barnett Shale in north Texas.

Central and southern Oklahoma's Sooner Trend Anadarko Basin Canadian and Kingfisher counties fields and west Texas and New Mexico's Delaware Basin now will be Devon's focus, the company said.

CEO Dave Hager said in a statement the sales will help Devon concentrate on the highest-returning growth inventory in its portfolio.

Devon on Tuesday also reported first-quarter net income of $565 million after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier.

Native American Dem Leader Eyes Congress Seat In New MexicoAssociated Press

The outgoing leader of the New Mexico Democratic Party is running for an open congressional seat and hopes to become the nation's first Native American congresswoman.

Debra Haaland recently filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission to run for the state's First Congressional District.

Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, is seeking to succeed U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, an Albuquerque Democrat who is stepping down to run for New Mexico governor. The open congressional race is expected to draw a number of candidates.

The University of New Mexico graduate ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2014 but garnered national attention for becoming the first Native American on a major party's gubernatorial ticket in New Mexico to seek that seat.

9 Inmates Arrested After Fight At New Mexico JailAlamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

Corrections officials say a fight broke out between inmates and officers at a southern New Mexico jail after nine inmates refused to comply with procedures for a routine lockdown.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports the Otero County Detention Center inmates suffered minor injuries in the Sunday altercation.

Correctional Services Director Carolyn Barela says the situation escalated after one of the inmates became upset that his telephone call had to be interrupted during the lockdown.

Records show deputies and state police responded to the jail and the inmates began using mattresses to block the officers' path.

The inmates are also accused of trying to strike the officers and grab their equipment.

According to the records, an officer used pepper spray on one inmate.

The nine inmates involved were eventually detained.

Albuquerque Votes In Favor Of $4.4 Million Taser ContractAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Albuquerque officials have voted to approve a $4.4 million contract with Taser International to provide 2,000 body cameras for city police officers.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the city council approved the five-year contract in a 5-3 vote Monday.

The vote comes after the city's Office of Inspector General issued a report in February that found the city used a fair and unbiased process to reach the no-bid contract deal with Taser.

In 2013, a $2 million no-bid contract with Taser led to a criminal investigation because a former police chief began consulting work for Taser while still on the city's payroll.

The investigation by the Attorney General's Office remains ongoing.

Perry says the new contract will help the police department remain in compliance with federal requirements.