Weekend News Roundup: Santa Fe Forest Travel Plan Upheld By Court

Jul 25, 2014

Credit Suwaif via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Santa Fe Forest Travel Plan Upheld By Court - The Associated Press

Conservation groups say a federal court has upheld a travel management plan for the Santa Fe National Forest that limits access for recreational use.

The U.S. District Court in Albuquerque ruled Friday that a statewide off-highway vehicle user group that sued the forest over the plan did not have a persuasive enough argument.

The New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance filed its lawsuit in 2012 after a forest supervisor signed off on the plan.

The group had argued in its complaint that the plan closes more than 70 percent of existing roads and trails on the northern New Mexico forest, significantly reduces camping options and makes it difficult for hunters to retrieve game.

Conservationists say the plan protects more than 400,000 acres of land and wildlife.

Changes Coming To New Mexico Teacher Evaluations - The Albuquerque Journal, The Associated Press

State officials say several changes will be made to New Mexico's teacher evaluation system, which has hit several snags including faulty data.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said Friday the changes will address the reporting of incorrect data and grant more flexibility to schools.

Skandera says the changes were presented Thursday to the New Mexico School Superintendents' Association.

The changes include making sure the state Public Education Department and districts schedule time to share accurate data.

Also, school districts can decide if teachers who receive a "minimally effective" rating should be put on a performance growth plan that was previously mandatory.

The evaluations have faced scrutiny since they were first released in May, with many teachers reporting errors in their scores.

County Has Given Hundreds Of Gay Marriage Licenses - The Las Crucen Sun-News, The Associated Press

A southern New Mexico county clerk says he has issued nearly 900 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the past year.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins said Friday his office has given out 896 licenses since August 2013.

Ellins says he gave out the most licenses within two months after announcing they would be made available.

A group of state legislators filing a lawsuit against Ellins last year, challenging the issue of licenses.

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in December that barring same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses was unconstitutional.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.

2 Men Accused Of Toting Rifle, Baby To Eatery - The Associated Press

Police say two men are under arrest after they entered an Albuquerque Jack in the Box drive-thru displaying an assault rifle and an infant with no car seat.

Police spokesman Simon Drobik says a manager called authorities early Saturday after seeing 28-year-old Mark Richard Cropper with an AR-15 on his lap and 27-year-old Colin Decker holding a baby.

Responding officers say the baby is Decker's 8-month-old son, Cayden.

They say Cayden was under-dressed and his diaper was extremely soiled.

According to officers, both men smelled of alcohol.

Police recovered four guns in all from the vehicle.

Both men have been booked into Metropolitan Detention Center on a charge of child endangerment.

Cayden is now in custody of the Children, Youth and Families Department.

Nude Farmington Man Pointed Rifle At Woman - The Associated Press  

A New Mexico man is facing charges after police say he pointed a rifle at a female neighbor while he was nude.

Farmington police say 53-year-old Rick Kennedy was arrested Friday after a SWAT team surrounded his home and told him to come outside.

According to police, a nude Kennedy came out of his house and began to call a neighbor by her name. She told investigators Kennedy then sat cross legged behind a tree in his yard and began to look through the scope of a rifle at her.

Authorities say Kennedy surrendered shortly following a phone call from officers. Police says he exited his home along with his 15-year-old son.

He faces a number of charges, including child abuse, disorderly conduct and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

It was not known if he had an attorney.


Some New Mexico Water Bank Irrigators Curtailed The Associated Press

An irrigation district that provides water to farmers throughout the Middle Rio Grande Valley is curtailing water deliveries due to sporadic rainfalls and inadequate waters storage in El Vado Reservoir.

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District said Friday that new water deliveries to Water Bank users will halt until further notice.

Under the MRGCD policy, each water bank lease is subject to curtailment in times of shortage.

The district established target water levels, both at El Vado Reservoir and the flows in the Rio Grande, as triggers to curtailment of Water Bank users.

Lake levels at Heron, El Vado and Elephant Butte are all expected to drop by the end of the year.

Officials blamed below-average snowpack in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico for this year's limited water supplies.

Albuquerque Agrees To Oversight Of PoliceThe Associated Press

The city of Albuquerque has agreed to submit to independent oversight of federally mandated reforms to its troubled police department.

Under an agreement announced yesterday by the Department of Justice, the city signed off on a framework for addressing eight problem areas Justice officials identified in a scathing report on police practices earlier this year.

Among the findings: officers too frequently used deadly force on people who posed a minimal threat and used a higher level of force too often on those with mental illness.

Albuquerque police have shot 41 people since 2010, 27 of them fatally.

The agreement calls for the final reform plan to be submitted to a court for enforcement. The city has also agreed to have an independent monitor brought in to oversee the reforms.

Video: SWAT Officers Told Suspect To Drop Gun - The Associated Press

A newly released video shows Albuquerque SWAT officers yelling at an armed man several times to drop his gun before he was fatally shot.

Videos made public yesterday showed two tactical officers running after a fleeing 33-year-old Jeremy Joe Robertson before at least two shots are heard. Another video shows what police say is a witness who was held at gunpoint by Robertson prior to his encounter with officers.

Albuquerque police said the ATF was seeking to take Robertson into custody when Albuquerque officers Anthony Sedler and Ramon Ornelas shot him Tuesday.

Ornelas was one of two officers who fatally shot 56-year-old Daniel Gonzales during a 2010 Tucumcari standoff.

Sedler was involved in two other fatal shootings: the 2010 shooting of Chris Hinz and the 2013 shooting of Parrish Dennison.

Mayor, Navajo Leaders Meet On Homeless Killings - The Associated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says he has directed police to thoroughly investigate last weekend's brutal slaying of two homeless Navajo men as a possible hate crime.

Berry met with Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and other tribal leaders yesterday. He says data the city has collected as part of its efforts to fight homelessness shows Native Americans are on the streets longer than other populations and are more likely to be victimized. He says he and Shelly have agreed to work together to figure out why, and find solutions.

Three teenagers are being held on murder charges in the attack. One of the suspects told police the trio had been targeting homeless people around Albuquerque for a year.

Prosecutors and police say they haven't found any evidence the men were targeted because of their race.

Santa Fe Police Returning To Four-Day Work Week - The Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican

The Santa Fe Police Department is reversing a controversial 2011 decision that had police officers switch to a five-day work week from a four-day schedule.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that officers will return to a four-day week on Aug. 2.

Then-Police Chief Ray Rael ordered the 2011 change, which he credited with reductions in burglaries and police overtime costs.

The five-day schedule was unpopular with officers who said it affected their quality of life.

Rael resigned earlier this year.

Most Schools Improve, Maintain Their A-To-F Grades - The Associated Press

State officials say the overwhelming majority of New Mexico's public schools improved or maintained their performance grade this year, and nearly two-fifths of schools received an A or B.

There were 332 schools with grades of A or B.  323 received a D or F.

The number of schools receiving a D or F increased by nearly 7 percent from last year while those getting A or B grew by about 8 percent. Schools getting a C dropped by 18 percent.

The Public Education Department says 71 percent of schools improved or maintained their letter grades from last year.

The grades are based heavily on results of standards-based tests taken last spring by students and reflect other factors such as a survey of students.

Decision Looms On New Mexico Insurance Exchange - The Associated Press

New Mexico is trying to decide whether to continue using a federal online system to enroll individuals in health insurance plans.

The state's health insurance exchange governing board meets today in Santa Fe. Vice chairman Jason Sandel said he expects a decision on how to handle an upcoming round of enrollment that starts in November.

The exchange serves as a marketplace for buying medical coverage.

New Mexico has been using a federally operated exchange to determine eligibility and enroll individuals.

Sandel says he wants to switch to a state-run online system for enrolling individuals. Businesses have been using the state system.

However, some board members question whether the state portal will be able to enroll individuals trouble-free.