When To Vote On Santa Fe Soda Tax Plan, Feds Give OK On Key Spaceport America Road

Feb 27, 2017

Santa Fe Councilors Compete With Mayor's Soda Tax Plan- Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A political battle is brewing between Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales and two city councilors over the mayor's proposal to tax sugary drinks to fund early childhood education programs.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the City Council will decide next month whether to ask voters if they want a 2-cents-an-ounce tax on soda and other sweetened beverages.

Gonzalez wants to hold a special election to decide on the tax question in May. But councilors Joseph Maestas and Ron Trujillo introduced a resolution last week to delay a vote until the regularly scheduled March 2018 election.

The fight over the timing of the election comes as both Maestas and Trujillo are considering running for mayor next year.

Feds Give OK On Key Road To Spaceport America In New MexicoThe Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

Federal authorities have given the green light on a key step to upgrade a southern New Mexico road to an aerospace economic hub.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management this month issued decisions on an environmental review of the proposed road improvements. That would lead to a graveled or chip-sealed road being built from Interstate 25 to the remote spaceport in southeastern Sierra County.

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority is paying for the roughly $14 million road improvement project.

The spaceport was initially publicized years ago as the world's first purpose-built facility for launching paying customers, satellites and other cargo into space. The project has been plagued by delays and other setbacks as Virgin Galactic worked to develop and test its spacecraft.

New Mexico Tribe Puts Up Land For $160M Medicinal Marijuana GreenhouseThe Associated Press

On a patch of tribal land in western New Mexico, a Delaware-based company plans to build a $160 million state-of-the-art greenhouse for researching and growing medicinal plants, including marijuana.

Bright Green Group of Companies is partnering with Acoma Pueblo on a project supporters say will net more jobs for rural New Mexico, a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Company and tribal officials are meeting at the site Tuesday to mark the start of construction, which is expected to take about two years.

The greenhouse and associated research facility will cover nearly 6 million square feet, or about 100 football fields, and the plants will be harvested for their oils.

Some say the effort could stir uncertainty over jurisdictional issues and federal controlled substance laws.

Amber Alert Canceled For Girl Taken By Possible Ex-Boyfriend- Associated Press

Authorities in Taos County have canceled an amber alert for a teenage girl who police say was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend.

Police say 21-year-old Christian Orozco broke into the home of the girl's grandparents in Penasco on Saturday night, holding them at gunpoint and threatening to kill them.

Orozco then took 15-year-old Angelica Valdez by force. The two were found in Espanola on Sunday, and Orozco was arrested.

The family told police Orozco had recently been in a violent relationship with Valdez.

Trump Administration Blocks Changes On Coal Mining Royalties- Associated Press

The Interior Department has put on hold changes to how the federal government values huge volumes of coal extracted from public lands, primarily in the Western United States, after mining companies challenged the agency in federal court.

The move by the Trump administration means current rules governing the industry will remain in place pending decisions in the courts, according to an agency notification due to be published Monday in the Federal Register.

The changes, crafted under the administration of President Barack Obama, were aimed at ensuring companies don't shortchange taxpayers on coal sales to Asia and other markets. Coal exports surged over the past decade even as domestic sales declined.

In 2016, companies sold 316 million tons of coal from federal and Indian lands valued at $5.4 billion. Those sales generated almost $600 million in reported royalties, according to Interior department data. Most coal from public lands is mined in Wyoming. Mines in Montana, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico also play a significant role.

Albuquerque Museum Exhibits New Mexico Film History- Associated Press, Albuquerque Journal

A new Albuquerque Museum exhibit is spotlighting New Mexico's movie industry from silent films to "Breaking Bad."

The Albuquerque Journal reports the exhibit starts in the industry's earliest days without sound and then covers Westerns, TV shows and the Oscar-winning film "Crazy Heart,".

After New Mexico put film industry tax incentives in place 12 years ago, "Santa Fe and Albuquerque began to blossom," said Paul Hutton, University of New Mexico history professor and curator.

Hutton said filmmaking in New Mexico began with Thomas Edison's "Indian Day School" in 1987.

"New Mexico was so exotic," Hutton said. "You could go to the mountains for snow and shoot (throughout) the seasons."

The "Hollywood Southwest: New Mexico in Film and Television" exhibit features memorabilia from various moviemaking eras and includes the final call sheet autographed by the stars of "Breaking Bad."

"Breaking Bad" is a major reason New Mexico became a hub for film, Hutton said.  "The success of 'Breaking Bad' drove this modern renaissance," Hutton said.

Some of the other films represented in the exhibit are "Billy the Kid's Range War" (1941) and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973).

Los Alamos District To Pull Out Of Subsidized Lunch Program- Associated Press, The Los Alamos Monitor

The Los Alamos school district plans to pull out of a federally subsidized school lunch program but officials say that there'll be funding to cover qualifying students currently served.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports the district has decided to have its five elementary schools leave the National School Lunch Program by next school year because the portions are too small and the selection of choices slows the service.

District officials say the change means students will have bigger portions of food, more variety and faster service.

Under the plan approved by the district board, schools will provide free and reduced lunches for students who qualify through applications and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

The district's middle school and high school don't participate in the program because they don't qualify.

Former Homebuilder Sentenced To Prison In Embezzlement Case- Associated Press

A former Santa Fe-area luxury homebuilder convicted of multiple counts of fraud and embezzlement faces about 4 ½ years in prison.

A state District Court judge sentenced 71-year-old William Kalinowski Friday to 18 years in prison but suspended 10 years and Kalinowski's time behind bars also will be reduced by credit for pretrial time served on house arrest and electronic monitoring.

Kalinowski went broke in 2008, leaving unfinished homes, defaulted loans and unpaid subcontractors and investors.

He long contended his business' failure was due to the housing market's collapse, but he admitted in court Friday that he was responsible and said he was sorry.

Kalinowski was indicted in 2013. A jury convicted him of nine counts and he could have faced up to 81 years in prison.

Albuquerque Airport Beginning 15-Month Renovation Project- Associated Press

Albuquerque's airport is beginning a renovation project to refurbish and upgrade the terminal's ticketing and baggage claims areas as well as its exterior.

Albuquerque International Sunport officials say the $30 million project is expected to take approximately 15 months.

Officials say the project will be completed in phases and that much of the work will be done at night so passengers should see little disruption.

Mayor Richard Berry says it's been nearly 30 years since the areas to be upgraded had any major improvements.

Protest Held At Las Cruces Office Of New Mexico Congressman- Associated Press, The Las Cruces Sun News

A crowd of about 200 people protested outside the Las Cruces office of Rep. Steve Pearce, the sole Republican member of New Mexico's congressional delegation.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that demonstrators said they participated in the event because the 2nd District lawmaker didn't have an in-person town hall during the congressional recess this past week.

Protesters expressed frustrations about various concerns, including health care, public lands and President Donald Trump.

Pearce held a telephone town hall recently and spokeswoman Kelley Christensen says Pearce couldn't have a town hall in his district this past week because he's been traveling overseas on congressional business.