Wildfire Grows In The Gila Near Reserve, Efforts To Ban Lunch Shaming Move to U.S. Congress

May 8, 2017

Fire in Gila National Forest Near Reserve GrowsThe Associated Press

Firefighters in southwestern New Mexico are battling a wildfire in the Gila National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service said Monday the Kerr Fire has grown to 4.4 square miles and is now 17 miles northeast of the village of Reserve, New Mexico.

Officials say lightning sparked the blaze on May 1.

The National Weather Service says the area is expected to see gusty winds and more lightning on Monday, hindering efforts to battle the blaze.

As of midday Monday, the fire was 17 percent contained.

Murder Warrant Issued in April 28 Killing in AlbuquerqueThe Associated Press

Authorities say an arrest warrant has been issued for a 30-year-old man sought in an April 28 homicide in Albuquerque.

The warrant charges Cory W. Chandler with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 42-year-old Harvey Saavedra in a southeast Albuquerque mobile home park.

Police say they'd like the public's assistance in locating Chandler but say he is considered armed and dangerous and that citizens should not attempt to contact or apprehend him.

Efforts To Stop School-Lunch Shaming Move To Congress - The Associated Press

Federal legislation has been introduced by Democratic lawmakers from New Mexico to ensure schools do not stigmatize or cast shame on children as attempts are made to collect lunch debts from parents.

Companion House and Senate bills were introduced Monday that would prohibit schools from singling out children because their parents have not paid school meal bills.

The proposed legislation is sponsored by Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham. It mirrors a New Mexico state law adopted this year that cracks down on "lunch shaming" and outlines application procedures to ensure federally subsidized lunches reach eligible children.

The New Mexico-based nonprofit Appleseed developed the original state legislation to help ensure students can eat adequately and avoid any public embarrassment.

Jury selection begins in retrial of ex-sheriff's deputyThe Associated Press, the Las-Cruces Sun-News

Jury selection is underway in the retrial of a former Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy accused in the 2014 shooting death of a fellow deputy during what authorities say stemmed from an alcohol-fueled argument.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that 99 potential jurors were summoned to appear in state district court in Las Cruces on Monday. A dozen will be selected to serve on the jury along with several alternates.

Jurors will have to decide if Tai Chan acted in self-defense or carried out a calculated murder when he shot and killed Jeremy Martin.

The shooting happened Oct. 28, 2014 at a hotel where the two were staying overnight after transporting prisoners to Arizona.

Chan's first trial ended in a mistrial when jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision.

Prosecutors have insisted that the case amounts to first-degree murder because Martin, 29, was shot in the back. Responding officers found him wounded and staggering off an elevator. Chan's lawyers contend he opened fire in self-defense because Martin was the aggressor in the argument leading to the shooting.

Judge Fernando Macias previously granted a motion that clears the way for jurors to view the crime scene, including the seventh-floor hotel room and associated hallways.

The trial is expected to take several days.

New Mexico Authorities Arrest Second Missing InmateAssociated Press

Authorities in New Mexico say they've arrested the second inmate who went missing from custody Friday.

Sandoval County Sheriff's office spokesman Lt. Keith Elder said Sunday afternoon that 25-year-old Paul Garcia was arrested in Los Lunas, about 45 miles south of the Sandoval County Detention Center.

Officials say Garcia and another inmate, Blake McPherson, escaped from the jail through a hole the detention center's recreation yard fence and then climbed onto the roof.

The pair then ditched their orange jumpsuits at a nearby construction site.

Garcia has been awaiting a court date in a case involving a stolen van crash that killed a girl and her mother earlier this year.

McPherson, who was found Saturday, is in custody on property crime charges.

West Las Vegas Administrators Have to Reapply For JobsThe Associated Press, The Las Vegas Optic

West Las Vegas Schools superintendent says all of the district's administrators will have to reapply for their jobs as part of a district-wide reorganization plan.

The Las Vegas Optic reports Superintendent Christopher Gutierrez announced last week he is making the move because of budget issues and a desire to restructure the district.

A job posting on the district's website seeks applications for five principal positions, an assistant principal, a special education director and an associate superintendent position.

Gutierrez says no administrative positions are being eliminated.

According to the job announcement published on the district's website, all applicants must possess a state administrative license and at least three years of administrative experience.

NPS Approves Jemez Mountain Trail Runs Despite Concerns Over Bear Season - The Santa Fe New Mexican

The National Park Service has approved a race this month in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, nearly a year after a marathon runner was attacked by a bear there in the Jemez Mountains.

The Santa Fe New Mexico reports the national group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility criticized the Park Service, saying its decision puts both humans and wildlife at risk in a season when bears and their new cubs are coming out of hibernation.

The Jemez Mountain Trail Runs are scheduled for May 20. The events’ organizer and the Park Service say the risk of wildlife encounters should not prevent recreation in the area.

Last June, a woman was just two miles from finishing a marathon when she was mauled by a sow who had two cubs nearby.

Organizers say new precautions at the trail race this year include putting EMTs at first aid stations and providing text alerts if wild animals are nearby. 

Eddy County Air Ambulance Service Remains Privately OperatedThe Associated Press, the Carlsbad Current-Argus

Eddy County officials have rejected contract proposals for a county-owned air ambulance service.

Chairwoman Stella Davis said commissioners might reconsider the proposal once the county has a solid idea of its finances, The Current-Argus reported. Meanwhile, the flights will continue to be operated privately.

Davis had said at the time of the meeting last week that a special state legislative session could result in more cuts and unfunded mandates.

"It was an agonizing decision," Davis said. "I was 100 percent in support and I still am. We just don't know what the state is going to do. Right now is not the right time. It's sad."

The county also lacks a contract with local hospitals to ensure they would utilize the county's air ambulances, Commissioner James Walterscheid said. "I'm glad we dropped it with what the state's doing," he said. "There's lots of problems with the way it's proposed."

There had been public backlash at the meeting by a group of citizens against the proposals.

Records show the helicopters would have cost the county $135,000 each per month, totaling in about $5 million per year.

The first request for proposal would have contracted with an outside company for the use, maintenance and mechanical staff of two main helicopters and one back up.

The second would have hired a medical director to oversee the program.

The county had been planning to provide medical staff separately from the contracts.

Man Who Shot Himself New Mexico Border Checkpoint DiesLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Officials say a man who shot himself at the New Mexico border checkpoint last month has died.

Las Cruces Sun-News reports the man died at a local hospital on Friday. The man was asked to go through a secondary inspection in April. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say the man took out a gun during the encounter and fired one shot toward the agents. The agents say they returned gunfire.

The case was investigated by the FBI and CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility with help from the FBI El Paso Division Evidence Response Team.

An FBI spokesman says the man shot himself.

Officials say the man's name will not be release since no charges will be filed.

A similar incident occurred days before.

New Mexico Governor Reconvenes Lawmakers In Budget Showdown – By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez ordered a special session of the Legislature on Friday to resolve a grinding state budget crisis, with no sign of a compromise with leading Democratic lawmakers.

Calling lawmakers to the New Mexico Capitol on May 24, the governor's proclamation asserts that lawmakers approved a $6.1 billion budget in March that was out-of-balance. The governor last month vetoed tax and fee hikes that many lawmakers say are necessary to shore up funding to public schools, courts and essential public services.

The decision to reconvene lawmakers comes as the Supreme Court weighs accusations that Martinez overstepped her authority by defunding the Democrat-led Legislature and all state universities and colleges for the fiscal year beginning July 1 — a step Martinez has said was necessary to avoid a deficit. The governor's legal defense of the vetoes was due on Friday.

New Mexico Governor Defends Vetoes In Court – Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is urging the state Supreme Court to stay out of a budget standoff with state lawmakers.

The Martinez administration filed a briefing Friday with the high court that defends the governor's decision to veto funding to the Legislature and state institutions of higher education for the coming fiscal year.

It says the GOP governor never abolished the Legislature or any state educational institutions and notes her decision Friday to call a special legislative session to rewrite the budget.

The Democrat-led Legislature says the governor's vetoes have upset the balance of powers between branches of government outlined in the state's constitution. Their lawsuit asks the Supreme Court to rescind the line-item vetoes.

Presidential Wedding Guests Closes Santa Fe StreetsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Santa Fe police say they closed downtown streets for former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports people caught a glimpse of the former president and first lady as they were leaving the Nedra Matteucci Galleries Saturday. Reports say the couple was there to watch the wedding of a goddaughter. According to the rumors, the wedding party and guests stayed at La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa for the weekend.

Federal Officials Target 27 National Monuments For Review - By Matthew Daly, Associated Press

A list of 27 national monuments has been assembled as the Interior Department reviews possible changes to the protections created by Republican and Democratic presidents over the past two decades.

The 27 monuments are mostly in the Western United States. Also under review are five marine monuments in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the list includes the Rio Grande Del Norte near Taos and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks near Las Cruces.

President Donald Trump ordered the review last month. He says that the protections imposed by the last three presidents amount to "a massive federal land grab" that "should never have happened."

Trump and others have argued that people who live in the states should decide how best to use the lands.

The designation of the sites as protected areas restricts their use. Conservationists generally cheer the designations as a way of warding off development.