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Morning Word: Staying Ahead of Wildfire

May 30, 2017, 7:30 am

Federal fire minders scramble over the weekend 
In the Jemez Mountains of the Santa Fe National Forest, there are four fire protection officers to patrol the district's 240,000 acres. Even with help from law enforcement and an extra crew of fire specialists from the Grand Canyon, keeping up with the spike in use—and abuse—of forest lands is next to impossible on the holiday weekend. "People are trashing out our forest quicker than we can clean it up," Fire Protection Officer Ron Gallegos tells NM Political Report in an eye-opening glimpse of holiday weekend mayhem

While you were holiday-weekending...
The governor signed the budget for next year. It looks a lot like the one from which she excised $744 million for the state's higher education system, as well as the budget for the Legislature. But she left those things alone, balancing the budget by shifting the state's debt around in a one-time move. Lawmakers say it's irresponsible and isn't a long-term solution. The governor says it's better than raising taxes.

Special session return 
And so, back to the Capitol they come today. The Legislature could try to override Martinez' vetoes of various revenue-raising bills, but that option failed when tried at the beginning of the session. With higher education spending and the Legislature's money back in the budget, there's a lot less reason for lawmakers to override unless Democrats want to dig in their heels over sustainable revenue fixes.

Indictment says gallery owner stiffed artists
A grand jury handed up five counts of felony embezzlement after hearing prosecutors argue former gallery owner Steve Brennen didn't pay artists whose work he sold at his now-closed Canyon Road gallery. Those are felony charges. Court documents and artists say Brennen either didn't pay artists after he sold their work or didn't return pieces they'd consigned to his gallery.

VeneKlasen in for land commissioner
Santa Fean Garrett VeneKlasen is the second Democrat to jump into the race for state land commissioner. He made the announcement this weekend and joins former land commissioner Ray Powell in seeking the nomination to challenge incumbent Republican Aubrey Dunn. VeneKlasen is currently the executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

Chan jurors explain impasse
Jurors from the second trial of former Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy Tai Chan say their three-hour deliberations after a lengthy trial showed they weren't going to reach an agreement. One juror, they say, maintained Chan was guilty of first degree murder in the shooting of then-fellow deputy Jeremy Martin. That's contrary to what we heard last week. Prosecutors haven't decided if they'll try Chan a third time.

Tire blowout, not alcohol, triggered deadly crash
While accident investigators say a sober person could have recovered from the situation, it appears a tire blowout was the initial cause of a crash that killed an Aztec family earlier this month. Passengers in a large work truck say they and the driver had been drinking on their way back from a landscaping job when their truck crossed the center line and slammed into the family's SUV near Cuba, killing all four people inside. The driver of the truck was killed, too.

Nava Ade vs. Las Soleras
People who live in the Nava Ade subdivision on Santa Fe's Southside say construction dust from the Las Soleras project is making their lives miserable and causing health problems. The project will result in a new Presbyterian hospital and 300 homes off I25 at the tail end of Cerrillos Road. They've complained to the city and Land Use Department.

Thanks for reading! The Word advises you to take it slow this morning and ingest plenty of coffee. Welcome back.

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