Wednesday News Roundup: Albuquerque Teachers To Get Pay Raises Under Pact

May 21, 2014

Albuquerque Teachers To Get Pay Raises Under PactThe Associated Press

A tentative agreement between Albuquerque's public school system and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation calls for teachers and other educators to get pay raises.

An announcement by the district and the union says teachers and other educators will get a raise of the greater of $2,000 or 3 percent.

The state budget for the upcoming fiscal year provides funding for minimum raises for all teachers but only required raises for entry-level ones.

The announcement by the district and the union says they agreed that all teachers and other educators need higher salaries.

With the raises, the minimum pay for the district's entry-level teachers will reach $32,000, while the minimum pay for the next two levels go up to $42,000 and $52,000.

The raises take effect in August.

New Mexico: 500 Barrels Of Questionable Nuke Waste Jeri Clausing, The Associated Press

New Mexico environment officials say more than 500 barrels of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory were packed with the kitty litter suspected of causing a chemical reaction and radiation release at the nation's underground nuclear waste dump.

Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn on Tuesday gave the Department of Energy and the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico until May 30 to detail plans for permanently sealing the underground rooms where more than 300 barrels of the potentially dangerous containers of waste are stored.

In addition to 368 containers at the dump, environment officials say 57 more are still at Los Alamos and more than 100 are in storage in West Texas.

The waste was packed with kitty litter to absorb moisture. Officials are investigating whether a switch from inorganic to organic litter is to blame for a radiation leak in February that contaminated 22 workers.

Police Shooting Contest Heads To Albuquerque The Associated Press

The National Police Shooting Championships is coming to Albuquerque — a city rocked by angry protests and a U.S. Justice Department probe over 39 officer involved shootings since 2010.

The city of Albuquerque and Albuquerque police are hosting the NRA competition in September for law enforcement members who can compete in one or more of the championship match events. According to former Police Chief Allen Banks, Albuquerque has hosted the contest for the last eight years.

The event comes as the city is entering negotiations with the Justice Department over pending reform following a harsh report blasting Albuquerque police on use of force.

Recently, demonstrators shut down an Albuquerque city council meeting and clashed with riot police who fired tear gas during a police shooting protest.

Forest Services Expands Firefighting Tanker Fleet The Associated Press

The U.S. Forest Service says it’s adding four aircraft to its firefighting fleet as California recovers from a spate of blazes and other fire-prone states brace for another hot, dry summer.

In a statement, the service said it will have a second DC10, which can carry more than 11-thousand gallons of retardant, and three smaller planes that can carry up to 3-thousand gallons. That brings the total to 21 large air tankers and more than 100 helicopters.

The announcement comes as the Obama administration pushes Congress to ensure that enough money is available to fight destructive wildfires. The Forest Service expects to exceed this year's budget in July, two months before the end of the budget year.

Civil Claims Dismissed In Navajo Slush Funds Case The Gallup Independent, The Associated Press

A Navajo Nation judge has granted a request by prosecutors to dismiss claims against nearly all remaining defendants in a 2011 civil case alleging misuse of tribal discretionary funds.

Window Rock District Judge Carol Perry signed an order May 14 to dismiss claims against current and former tribal officials, with the exception of Controller Mark Grant.

The Gallup Independent reports that special prosecutors are in settlement talks with Grant on a breach of fiduciary duty claim.

Prosecutors say those dismissed from the civil case still could face criminal or ethics charges.

More than two dozen people already have been charged with criminal counts of conspiracy and bribery or with violating ethics laws. Some of them have settled their cases while others await trial.

Santa Fe Works To Place Tail Of The Donkey Statue The Associated Press

The city of Santa Fe is working to replace the tail mysteriously stolen off its well-known metal donkey statue.

The Santa Fe Arts Commission announced Tuesday it's working with artist Taylor Mott to reconstruct and replace the tail on the burro sculpture.

The metal sculpture of a burro that stands at one end of Santa Fe' Burro Alley was recently vandalized and its tail was ripped off.

Police have no clues on any possible tail bandits and is offering a $1,000 reward.

The sculpture by artist Charles Southard, part of the city's collection of about 75 pieces of public art, was commissioned in 1988. It's valued at $12,500.

Mott is working to create a replacement tail for the artist's review and approval. When approved, officials say the tail will be welded in place.

Extra Funding OK'd For Jurors, Interpreters The Associated Press

A state board has approved nearly half a million dollars to cover a greater than expected need for interpreters and jurors in court cases.

Administrative Office of the Courts Director Artie Pepin said Tuesday a court fund was running short of money in large part because of an increased demand for interpreters and because of more jury trials.

The State Board of Finance approved an emergency grant Tuesday to cover the shortfall in a fund that will pay about $7 million dollars this fiscal year for jurors, interpreters and some witnesses.

Pepin said New Mexico was the only state where citizens who don't speak English have a right — based in the state constitution — to serve on juries.

Spanish, Navajo and American Sign Language account for most of the need for interpreters.

New Mexico Inmates To Be Offered Yoga Classes The Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Corrections is using a new method to prepare inmates for life outside prison — yoga.

Corrections officials recently launched a "yoga and mindfulness" program as part of the department's many rehabilitation efforts.

According to the department, the yoga classes will help incarcerated inmates in self-discovery, healing, living differently.

Officials say other prisons systems are using yoga classes as a method for increasing inmate and public safety, and lowering rates of recidivism rates.

The yoga program was introduced at Central New Mexico Correctional Facility last month.

Gov. Susana Martinez Fundraising In Washington, DC The Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez plans a re-election fundraiser today in the nation's capital with prominent Republicans from across the country.

The governor is scheduled to attend the fundraiser in suburban Washington, D.C.

Campaign spokesman Chris Sanchez said Martinez traveled Tuesday to New York for a Republican Governors Association meeting, and she's going to Washington Wednesday for the fundraising reception.

A similar fundraiser was held in 2013, featuring guests such as Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and House Speaker John Boehner.

The re-election campaign will pay for the governor's travel costs to the fundraiser and her return to New Mexico on Thursday. Sanchez said the governors association will cover costs of the New York trip.