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Morning Word: Partial, redacted behavioral health audit released

And the rest of New Mexico's news

October 21, 2013, 8:00 am
By Matthew Reichbach
  • Friday afternoon, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government was finally given what it has been seeking -- the behavioral health audit. Well, kind of. It was a heavily redacted audit and had just a fraction of the total pages included.

    New Mexico In Depth wrote about it. So did the Santa Fe New Mexican. KRQE covered it as well. So did KOB.
  • The state is having trouble filling some vacant positions.
    However, a look at the most recent State Personnel Office’s quarterly report shows that high vacancy rates continue to be a problem across state government, with some agencies having a much higher vacancy rate than the programs Varela is concerned about.
    The two that Varela is worried about are the Protective Services and Juvenile Justice Services divisions.
    Other state departments with high vacancy rates were Regulation and Licensing (22.3 percent); Taxation and Revenue (21.5 percent); Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources (20 percent); Public Education (19.7 percent); Environment (18.4 percent); Health (17.4 percent); Workforce Solutions (16.8 percent) and Public Safety (16.2 percent).
  • Could teachers around the state go on strike because of pending teacher evaluations? Well... probably not.
    Many teachers fear the evaluations will be subjective rather than objective and are a witch hunt, she added.

    Bernstein said a strike would be illegal because of a no-strike clause in state law. She makes that clear in the letter but adds she would gladly to go jail by breaking that no-strike clause.
  • The energy sector stands out in New Mexico's economy according to the Albuquerque Journal's look at reports from the Federal Reserve Bank.
  • Looks like PED secretary-designate Hanna Skandera returned KOAT's phone call.
    State Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera responded by saying the state is implementing a whole new way to evaluate teachers. She said Korte's email, "summed up as a great example … the misinformation floating around the state." Skandera said that's why she used it in the mass email.
  • Donors preferred to give money to candidates' PACs instead of political parties.
    The shift has given the elected officials and their political action committees – including Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s Susana PAC and the Democratic House Speaker’s Ken Martinez Leadership Fund – more clout in setting course for their respective parties. It has increasingly left state party leaders watching from the sidelines.
  • Taos officials are defending potential Open Meetings Act violations.
    Córdova said in an interview “communication and dialogue” are important in keeping councilors fully informed about town issues, but no final decisions are ever made.

    “If a councilor is against something that’s very important to the town, than I know I need to give him all the information that clearly shows why it’s beneficial,” Córdova told The Taos News.
  • Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, opposed yoga being taught in schools because of the risk of religious indoctrination into Eastern religions.
  • Will there be fewer attack ads in 2014? Steve Terrell brings up the possibility because it doesn't look like there will be any competitive top-tier races.
  • The Cook Political Report moved the 2nd Congressional District race closer to Democrats -- but Democrats shouldn't celebrate quite yet. The rating of "Likely R" still means it would be a big upset if Steve Pearce lost.
  • Democrats could have a very young slate of statewide candidates this year. Except for Ray Powell and Tom Udall, of course.
  • New Mexico Health Exchange board members blasted the federal government over the problems with the federal health care exchange website.
  • Winthrop Quigley looks at the health insurance exchanges.
  • A Democrat actually wants to run for Lieutenant Governor! Marie Julienne intends to run, according to a tweet from Democratic activist Angelica Rubio.
  • The New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board said the Central Consolidated School District violated the collective bargaining agreement with the union.
    According to draft minutes posted from the Oct. 8 employee labor relations board meeting, the district claimed that a 2003 state law did not allow school boards authority over grievances filed by employees and school personnel.

    Instead, school boards only have authority over the school superintendent, and the law allows the superintendent the power to supervise and administer all schools and personnel within the district.
  • The Albuquerque City Hall staff director is retiring after 24 years with the city.
  • The Santa Fe Reporter looks at proposed changes to the position of mayor in Santa Fe -- including making it a "strong" mayor like Albuquerque's mayoral position.
  • The Los Alamos Daily Post has the memo from Los Alamos National Labs Director Charlie McMillan on the end of the shutdown.
  • The Los Alamos Monitor writes about subcontractors being back in business after the shutdown. Unlike federal workers, the subcontractors won't be compensated for money lost from the shutdown.
  • The state tourism department set aside $15,000 for cities affected by the shutdown.
    The money will be used in "focused advertising" and public relations campaigns to encourage travelers to visit those areas that have reopened, according to a state news release.
  • Former residents at the controversial youth ranch have very different stories on what happened there.
  • The Otero County and Alamogordo City commissions put off a decision on addressing the looming end to the hold harmless provision.
  • Should interim committee hearings be held in casinos? Jim Baca says no.
    I absolutely refuse to go to any political fundraisers or functions held at a casino. I think if people want to gamble, (being the suckers they are) then we shouldn't make it more convenient for them by having a branch of government helping out. The committee chairs and Legislative Council need to make a big policy change here.
  • It appears that Capitol Report New Mexico objects to Bill Richardson's place on the Governors Fiscal Leadership Council.
  • A new book says the mysterious cattle mutilations near Dulce were caused by the government, not aliens.
    Greg Valdez says this contamination was caused by an experiment known as "Project Gasbuggy" that took place 21 miles southwest of Dulce on Dec. 10, 1967. The project's goal was to identify peaceful uses for nuclear explosions, and it involved the detonation of a 29-kiloton device located 4,227 feet underground. The intent was to release pockets of natural gas that could be used commercially.
    Fox Mulder does not approve.
  • A biomass plant is using cow manure to create gas.
  • Elected officials in Sandoval County aren't very happy about changes to the procurement policy. Or, rather, they aren't happy about not being consulted.
  • KOAT covered the story of the use of Roundup, which contains Glyphosate, which New Mexico Mercury first covered.
  • There are petitions circulating to recall two Tucumcari commissioners. I looked at the recent history of political recalls in New Mexico a few weeks back.
  • Fracking fluid blew our a nearby traditional oil well in the San Juan Basin in late September. KRQE reported the story on Friday.
  • The eastern New Mexico peanut processor Sunland Inc. had been preparing for bankruptcy since April -- the same time that the company was granted a $150,000 grant from the city of Portales.
    City Manager Doug Redmond said Sunland officials never said anything about bankruptcy or money problems during negotiations that began in early March. Quite the opposite, Redmond said, Sunland Chief Executive Officer Jimmie Shearer presented the city with financial statements indicating the company was solvent and had just received a $3 million loan from a Denver bank to purchase new equipment.
  • The two high schools in Rio Rancho are going (mostly) solar.
    Each array is ground-mounted and consists of more than 4,000 solar panels. The expected annual output of 4.65 million kilowatt hours will produce about 80 percent of the electricity needed to run the schools, saving the district about $200,000 in electricity costs.
  • Voting convenience centers are headed to Carlsbad and Eddy County according to the Carlsbad Current-Argus.
  • The Dawson mining disaster happened one hundred years ago.
    At first, no one knew exactly how many miners were lost. But on Oct. 24, two days after the explosion, The New Mexican estimated that the loss of life would reach 263 — what became the official tally — making it the second largest mining disaster in U.S. history.

    Most were recent immigrants — 129 from Italy, 52 from Greece, 30 from Mexico and the rest from Austria, France, England, Russia and other countries, along with 37 English-speaking Americans, both whites and blacks. Among those killed was the mine’s superintendent, William McDermott, a native of Ireland, and a man who had accompanied him into the mine that day, identified as a “wealthy New Yorker.”
  • It has now been three months since the Raton Range last published. I think we can, sadly, say goodbye. I have went to the site each evening when I compile the Morning Word -- but I think that it is time to stop. The Raton Range began publishing back in 1891.
  • A Las Vegas teacher and environmental activist is running for a spot on the San Miguel County Commission.
  • Vacant houses in Shiprock could be the target of an arsonist. Here's why the houses were never finished.People on Facebook say crappy things to politicians.
  • The move to legalize beekeeping in Alamogordo is moving forward and could be completed as soon as Tuesday.
  • The fake funeral for a character on Breaking Bad drew the ire of some whose family members were buried at the cemetery where it took place. I'm not sure who thought holding it at an actual cemetery where actual people are buried was a good idea.
  • Oh, and the headstone (which, again, was in a REAL CEMETERY) has already gone missing.
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