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Protect & Pray

Santa Fe police rack up overtime for archbishop installation event

Local NewsTuesday, July 7, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

The Santa Fe Police Department spent $16,000 to protect the installation of the new archbishop in a scene so overrun with cops in early June that it led some Santa Feans to question the prudence of the expenditures, including one who exclaimed, “Archbishops are a dime a dozen.”

Of course, those are fighting words in the city of Santa Fe, whose Spanish name, literally translated, means Holy Faith, and where the separation of church and state is sometimes a blurred line.

Whether the Catholic faith played a part, or whether the security detail was merely a precaution in an age of terrorism fears, is now the subject of debate in the aftermath.

But this much is certain: Cops got paid $7,223 for 222 overtime hours, and another 572 regular hours were logged in a special security detail that featured nearly 50 officers patrolling the periphery of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi on June 3 and 4.

That’s according to a cost analysis obtained by SFR through a public records request.

Streets around the church were closed off, and on the day of the archbishop’s installation, a SWAT team and its truck were brought in for the occasion, along with a pair of drug-sniffing dogs; according to eyewitness accounts, at least two snipers took to the roof of a nearby hotel.

Thomas Ragan

Not all of that, to be fair, was due to just Santa Fe police. Instead, it was a conglomeration of federal and state agents along with New Mexico State Police and the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department. Plus, members of the Santa Fe Fire Department were also on hand.

“I was thinking, is the archbishop in jeopardy? Is there something they all know that we don’t know?” asks Guadalupe Goler, the owner of a shoe store in sight of the church. “Unless his life was truly in jeopardy, I think it was an unnecessary show of power. It was a little scary to be honest, because I didn’t know what was going on.”

Walt Borton quickly dashed off a letter to SFR, whereby he described the excessive scene.

“It was reminiscent of a presidential visit,” writes the 68-year-old Borton. “If there was a credible threat—I suppose it makes sense. But if what I saw today was routine security then I hope the Archdiocese is paying for it because this is a clerical official—not a government official—and the taxpayers should not have to foot that kind of security cost except in extraordinary circumstances.”

For the record, the taxpayers did foot the bill, and Santa Fe Police Chief Eric Garcia, in a reply in response to SFR’s records request, defends the actions of his department, saying it was important that the “peace was maintained.”

But Garcia also admits that police were expecting a bigger crowd than the few thousand who ultimately showed up, adding that it is always better to err on the side of caution. Conversely, he says, if something terrible were to have happened during the installation, then police would have been blamed.

“You can’t put a price on safety,” he writes. “We utilized our resources efficiently and ensured that this was a safe and successful event. We had word that there could be five to ten thousand people in the downtown area, so we took every precaution to make sure that peace was maintained.”

On June 4, the Most Rev. John C Wester became the archdiocese’s 12th archbishop in an event that ended Michael J Sheehan’s two-decade tenure.

The massive police presence that morning also spurred rubbernecking among tourists, many of whom were caught off-guard and could be seen asking the officers if anything had gone wrong.

Nope, came the reply. Just routine security surrounding the installation of the archbishop.

For some business owners who flank the Plaza, the commotion was just like any other event that shuts down the public space, from car shows to Fiestas to Indian Market.

“It comes with the territory,” remarks Margaret Hanson of Street Feet, located inside the La Fonda Hotel building. “But I did look twice when the snipers came in with their camouflage.”

Across the street from the church, in front of the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, dozens of uniformed and plainclothes officers met to discuss their day’s assignments, some of them wearing suits and sunglasses; they could have easily passed for Secret Service agents (pictured below).

And by the end of the day, police reported just one arrest: A 51-year-old man was removed from the church when he refused to vacate a pew reserved for one of the dozens of bishops who showed up for the event.

Lt. Andrea Dobyns, a spokeswoman for the police department, argues that the security was well played and that the overtime costs were minimal. Some of the money associated with the detail went to police officers who would have been on duty there anyway, she says.

“It’s not like we busted our overtime budget to do this,” she tells SFR.

It’s the job of the Santa Fe police to protect the community at large, she adds, and the police presence had nothing to do with the fact that it was a Catholic event.

“It’s not like we’re only helping certain groups,” she explains.

But Borton, a marketing and public relations consultant, is still having a hard time with it all.

It was like Turkey under martial law, he claimed in his letter. And this was only on the day of Vespers. It wasn’t even for the big installation itself.

“Maybe for the Pope,” writes Borton, a Nebraska native who’s lived in the City Different since 1996. “But archbishops are a dime a dozen and barely warrant a driver in the real world.”


Tweet @ Mayor

Twitter Town Hall invites, or perhaps incites, conversation with mayor

Local NewsTuesday, July 7, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Got a question for the mayor? We all do. To start with—how’d you get your hair to stay like that? And to finish, what are you going to do about the short supply of affordable housing around town? Mayor Javier Gonzales will be fielding them all in 140 characters or less through his first ever “Twitter Town Hall” Wednesday, July 8 from 2:30 to 3:30 pm.

Use #TwitterTownHall to send a question to the mayor’s list and watch for a reply marked with the same hashtag. 

“Communication goes two ways, and what I love about the Town Hall format is the ability to not just share our vision and the daily work we’re doing, but to also hear from citizens about what they want to see in their city,” Gonzales said in a press release.

Parody Twitter account @Old_Man_Gloom will be chiming in by hosting Zozobra’s first-ever town hall, same time, same Twitter, same hashtag.

The press release carrying the announcement declared, “Communication can happen from one person to another and the other way. What I love about communication is twitter.”

Expect similar cogency and sincerity to pepper the dialog.


Monsoon Swoons

Forecasters say colder temps and rainy days are ahead

Local NewsTuesday, July 7, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

A back-door front blew in from the Great Plains on Monday, disenchanting the Land of Enchantment, bringing lingering rain and setting a record at the Albuquerque International Sunport with 2.24 inches in a 24-hour period.

The front, which blew in from the north and the east, also set the mood for the rest of the workweek in Santa Fe, now expecting mostly cloudy skies in the afternoons and clear skies in the mornings, according to the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. All of which is typical for the desert Southwest and the Rocky Mountains this time of year—what mist and fog are to the Pacific Ocean before the late-morning burnoff begins.


“It’s the North American monsoon system,” Deirdre Kann, an NWS meteorologist, says matter-of-factly. “So you can expect rain showers in the afternoon, at least through Saturday.”


By Sunday, the sun should emerge in full force, and summer temperatures should reach their normal highs of 80 degrees, but until then, they’re expected to be well below normal, a seesawing of mid-50s to mid-70s, Kann tells SFR.

And, of course, everyone should expect on-again and off-again rains from now until mid-September. It’s just part of the monsoon season, a word more commonly associated with major flooding in substandard regions of India but which in the Southwestern US is mostly just a major shift in wind direction, brought on by the intense heat indigenous to the desert, Kann points out.


And as the wind direction shifts, there’s a reverse in the normal flow of air, and that causes moisture from the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico to head for dry land, where it then gets trapped in the atmosphere.


Monsoons will no doubt contribute to what the US Drought Monitor estimated last month as a wetter prognosis for the region. About 22 percent of the state is in moderate to severe drought and 4 percent of the state in severe drought, the bulk of which is spread over the western half of New Mexico.  


Morning Word: Feds Propose More Money for Poor Schools

Minority students not receiving an equal education

Morning WordTuesday, July 7, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
It's Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A proposed education reform bill in Washington could provide more funds for schools in economically depressed areas of New Mexico.
It calls for an increase in federal money and resources for the lowest-performing schools and students. The report also calls for a decrease in standardized tests — an action long advocated for by New Mexico teachers — and more money for early education. 
Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

New Mexico has consistently had a large number of people living in poverty. A new report from the Economic Innovation Group shows 20 percent live in communities that are economically depressed.
In Santa Fe County, the ZIP code that contains the village of Santa Cruz near Española is the most economically distressed community. The unemployment rate there is nearly 18 percent, and more than 30 percent live below the poverty level. 
Steve Terrell has more. 

New Mexico In Depth correspondent Gwyneth Doland takes an up-close look at some New Mexicans caught up in an expensive cycle of payday loans.

Read her riveting report here. 

After rejecting a big new apartment complex development, four Santa Fe City Councilors are sponsoring a resolution to direct city staffers to research ways to solve the city’s house affordability problems.
The resolution says that Santa Fe’s housing costs are higher than the national average for cities of similar size, that 62 percent of Santa Fe’s workforce lives outside the city and that 72 percent of them say they live outside the city because of the high cost of housing in the city. It adds that the population in the city has declined over the past decade in the 25-54 age group, and that while renter income has remained relatively flat since 2000, the rents have increased. 
TS Last has the story. 

Elizabeth Miller, SFR’s new city government reporter, has a preview of tomorrow’s Santa Fe City Council meeting. She reports councilors are considering a budget mechanism that will allow the transfer of up to 12 percent of enterprise fund money to the general budget.

Read more here. 

People living in Questa have been struggling ever since the Molycorp mine closed down. Now comes word the company has filed bankruptcy.

Mike English has the story at ABQ Business First. 

Gov. Susana Martinez reminded New Mexicans on Monday about their legal obligation to report suspected child abuse.
 “Over the summer months when children are not in school, we need to maintain a watchful eye over our children to make sure they are staying healthy and safe. Anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect must report it. Dialing #SAFE will connect New Mexicans with our child abuse and neglect reporting hotline.” 
Read it at the Los Alamos Daily Post. 

Martinez also says protecting the state’s water resources is not negotiable.
“We have taken the necessary steps to begin addressing the Kirtland fuel spill when other administrations hesitated to engage with the problem. The U.S. Air Force has stepped up and done the work required by my Administration to begin remediating the plume of contaminated water beneath Kirtland and parts of Albuquerque. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done, but today's announcement shows that we have made great strides in protecting Albuquerque's water supply.” 
Read more here. 

On Monday, lawmakers on the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee spent time  discussing how the state should regulate airborne drones in New Mexico.
Some who testified before the committee cited instances where drones have harassed livestock, interrupted outdoor activities and trespassed over private property. They argued that proposed rules being considered by the Federal Aviation Administration deal more with economic and safety benefits rather than privacy issues — and that’s where state legislatures have room to set policy. 

Susan Montoya Bryan has more. 


Reporter Uriel Garcia has more good news about recent rains improving the state’s drought conditions; even more rain is in this week’s forecast.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Traversing a dirt road shortcut along Highway 599 at Paseo de River proves to be treacherous for Santa Fe drivers, especially during monsoon season. We’ve crossed the Santa Fe River here many times and had no idea it was illegal. 

KRQE has the story. 

Head-on collisions caused by drivers going to the wrong way on roads has been a problem in Santa Fe. On Monday, Santa Fe police car dash cams caught a 72-year-old suspected drunk driver going to the wrong way on Highway 599.

Gabrielle Burkhart has the video. 

KOB reports there is more federal grant money coming to New Mexico to help law enforcement agencies battle the DWI crisis.

Read it here. 

We haven't had any sports news for a while, but here's some good news for Lobo basketball fans. After playing a year in Italy, former men’s basketball standout Kendall Williams has inked a one-year deal to play in France.

Van Tate has the scoop. 

Former LSU baseball standout Alex Bregman, who’s inked his own lucrative MLB deal with the Houston Astros, is playing minor league baseball this summer in New Orleans. Now he’s celebrating his first professional-level home run.

Read about it at NOLA.com 

If you’re considering a vacation close to home this summer, TripAdvisor recommends affordable trips to Angel Fire and Red River.

Read more online. 

Finally, a Taos man has had enough and has decided to sue Facebook to force them to stop invading his privacy with unwanted text messages.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Wringing Out the Budget

City council to consider using water funds for other operations while opponents question legal maneuverings and precedent

Local NewsMonday, July 6, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Whether the city can move millions from the water fund to the general fund to balance the upcoming fiscal year’s budget is one of the big matters on the table for the July 8 City Council meeting. 

But the mechanism officials will consider—an ordinance to allow the city annually to transfer as much as 12 percent of excess cash balances from enterprise funds to the general fund—could have more long-lasting consequences. 

This year, the enterprise fund in the spotlight is a pot of reserves mostly amassed from the city’s water users,  who pay one of the highest rates in the country, and from taxes paid at cash registers citywide. 

Without the proposed transfer of a total of $4.7 million, the city’s Fiscal Impact Report states, “next year’s budget will come up short by $3 million” and the city’s total operating deficit, which already stands at $11 million, will notch upward. 

The ordinance would amend an existing ordinance allowing the city to transfer up to $1.7 million annually from the enterprise funds that also include operations like the municipal airport and trash collection. Without the transfer this year, officials say the next option is to cut services or lay off staff, or to increase taxes. 

The budget drafted by City Council for the fiscal year which began July 1 relies on that transfer, and without it, the city will have to re-do the budget by the state’s July 31 deadline.  

The ordinance failed to pass the Public Utilities Committee in a June 3 meeting, with Councilors Joseph Maestas, Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas against and Chris Rivera and Peter Ives for the measure. During that committee discussion of the ordinance, Bushee stated, “This is not a one time deal and it is the wrong approach.”

Councilor Ives countered that without the approval of this ordinance, the city budget not only isn’t balanced, but violates existing ordinance.

“I think it’s necessary to move this forward so we didn’t get caught in the circumstance of having approved a budget that legally violates our own ordinances,” he said during the June committee meeting.

The proposed ordinance initially stated that such transfers are intended for “extraordinary duly incurred costs of non-routine city services attributable to operation and maintenance of the enterprise or enterprise fund.”  Given that prior transfers of funds from the Water Division have paid salaries for full time employees, which is not a non-routine service, the Finance Committee struck that word from the draft. It also added a sunset clause of June 30, 2016. 

While the budget details aren’t necessarily a hot topic for public comment considering recent debates over development, there’s still a cry of opposition that’s gaining momentum. 

The Santa Fe Coalition for Good Government’s director, Mary Walta, raised concerns in a June 25 letter emailed to the mayor and city councilors, as well as the Office of the State Auditor and to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).

The city has failed to provide compelling reasons for using the Water Division’s funds to pay for city operations when lower city revenues have been an ongoing issue for years and should be accounted for in the city’s budget, says the letter, which also notes, “Most, if not all, of the $11 million shortfall is attributable to increased salaries and employee benefits for current and new city employees.” 

The city had no legal authority to present a budget to the state that relies on a funds transfer that is not authorized per existing city ordinance, she adds. “Hopefully, city councilors who oppose use of water funds for non-water related purposes will not feel compelled to now cover the city’s tracks on what amounts to clear overreaching of authority,” Walta’s letter reads. “Likewise, hopefully the DFA will take a dim view of this sort of ex post facto authorization in the budgeting process.”

She adds that without a concrete plan to increase revenues, this transfer sets a precedent for using enterprise funds to close gaps in the budget the city should expect to see repeated in years to come. 

The coalition also questioned the legality of the city’s considered rededication of the ¼ of 1 percent municipal capital outlay gross receipt tax that was approved by voters in 2004 to fund water-related projects, stating that “rededication of the 2004 tax revenues without voter approval would be illegal."

With the Water Division’s estimated 800 miles of aging infrastructures and hundreds of millions to spend on capital projects planned for the next 10 years, the funds can hardly be spared. And if there are no water-related projects that need to be funded, the coalition contends, then water rates need to be reduced.  But that idea isn’t apparently up for discussion.

“Water is more important than money. It’s priceless,” Carolyn Sigstedt, Santa Fe businesswoman and the lone public commenter at the Public Utilities Committee meeting, tells SFR. “[City council] should see that. It’s not enough for them to say ‘We’ll never do this again.’ It’s just too easy.”

The Wednesday City Council meeting is set to begin at 5 pm in the gym at Santa Fe High School. A proposed development on Old Santa Fe Trail is also on the agenda. 

Morning Word: PNM Faces SEC Complaint

Environmental group says utility misled investors

Morning WordMonday, July 6, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
It's Monday, July 6, 2015

New Energy Economy wants the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the Public Service Company of New Mexico for allegedly misleading its investors by issuing what they call a “deceptive” news release claiming a coal supply deal could save ratepayers $300 million.
But the complaint contends if PNM had secured a coal contract with Westmoreland Coal Co., about $250 million of the $300 million in savings would occur regardless of whether PNM’s power plan was approved by the state Public Regulation Commission. “Therefore, the PNM news release is intentionally misleading, crafted to sway public and [Public Regulation Commission] sentiment,” the complaint says.

Steve Terrell reports.

The war of words between the investor-owned utility and environmentalists continues. On Sunday, Jo An Newton, PNM’s vice president of external affairs and customer service, accused New Energy Economy of twisting the facts about their power replacement proposal and insisted coal-generated energy is the lowest-cost option for consumers despite computer models that show renewable sources may already be a cheaper option.

Read it here.

Dan Boyd, the Albuquerque Journal’s Capitol Bureau chief, has a good story this morning about the effectiveness of tax incentive packages on economic development and job creation in New Mexico. Boyd says the jury is still out. And even if tax incentives are successful in sparking economic activity, they still come with a cost.
A 2012 Legislative Finance Committee report found it cost the state roughly $31,000 in tax incentives to attract a job with an annual salary of $43,000.

Read it here.

Police departments around the state that have relied on the sale of seized property to boost their budgets are increasingly worried about the impact of the state’s new forfeiture law.

KOB has the story.

The Las Cruces Sun-News' Walt Rubel is confident that Spaceport America will become a viable space launch site, but he’s not so sure it will ever be safe for passengers to ride rockets.

Read it here.

Now that the US Supreme Court has ordered marriage equality for same-sex couples, Alray Nelson wants the Navajo Nation to repeal the Diné Marriage Act.
Our Navajo Nation has a long march toward equality, but we can only move forward. Although the Coalition for Navajo Equality is pleased with the court decision reaffirming our fundamental right to marry who we love, the Diné Marriage Act is still the law of the Navajo Nation. Yet, we believe this victory provides us a foundation to also seek action to its direct repeal. Let me be clear — gay and lesbian Navajo couples only want to be treated with fairness and respect by their Nation.

Read his view here.

New Mexico is on track to becoming a leader in ending veterans’ homelessness.
New Mexico communities are defining success as the point at which the number of veterans waiting to be housed is less than or equal to the number the state has been able to house in an average month – in other words, the point when no veteran will be homeless more than a month.

Read it at the ABQ Journal.

A state district court judge wants the New Mexico Supreme Court to determine if a law that allows teenagers to be tried as adults is constitutional before sitting a jury to hear murder charges against two teenagers accused of killing two homeless men in Albuquerque last year.

Read it at the ABQ Journal.

The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops will oppose a proposal to impose new work requirements on residents who received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) benefits.

Deborah Baker reports.

US Rep. Steve Pearce thinks the best way to stop ISIS is to curb its ability to sell oil on the world markets.

Read his take here.

New Mexico State University is breaking down the science of our state’s favorite fruit.
"Early on, chile peppers were used mostly for medicinal purposes," said Danise Coon, a senior research specialist at the Chile Pepper Institute. "Later, people started integrating them into their food and they started selecting for bigger pods, for different flavors, for colors, and from that is why we have so many different ones today."
Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News.

The founder of Burt Bee’s has died. Burt Shavitz’ famous lip balm has been a favorite of Santa Feans, warding off dry desert heat, for decades.

Read it at the Daily Beast.

Finally, Forbes magazine lists Las Cruces as one of the Top 25 places to retire in the United States because the cost of living is 8 percent lower than the national average. Two drawbacks: the low number of doctors per capita and the city’s low walkability ranking.

Read more here.

“Growing up Transgender in America shouldn’t mean growing up to hate your body”

Read local activist Polina Smutko’s empowering (and undelivered) Pride speech

Local NewsFriday, July 3, 2015 by Enrique Limón

Along with a fantastic turnout and a heightened sense of joy thanks to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage just a day earlier, Santa Fe’s recent Pride parade was an affair to remember. Joining a barrage of colorful balloons, beads and tender signs of affection that added to the already celebratory mood, several guest speakers, including Mayor Javier Gonzales, took the Plaza stage to address the crowd. 

Among them was to be local activist Polina Smutko, who due to a scheduling gaffe was bumped from the program. This week, Smutko shared her undelivered speech on her Facebook page. 

Her words were honest, heart wrenching and uplifting. “I am proud that I no longer feel less a woman because I am trans and not cis,” Smutko wrote.

Below, you’ll find the entire, unedited text reprinted with permission.

I am proud to be here today proud to honor the day marriage became equal

the day love won

Proud to live in a town where the Mayor respects our small community enough to put his career on the line to make Santa Fe a safer place for us.

Proud the Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance has elected me the first transwoman on its board

Proud to be T in their LGBTQ

Proud to come after Martha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and every other trans woman who started the Stonewall riots in 1969 by refusing to be arrested, by refusing to be part of the gender binary

This is my first pride celebration and I am proud to stand up here as a trans woman

Proud that I am no longer too intimidated to stand up and self-identify

revealing something so private something most trans people have been trained a whole life time to be ashamed of.

I am proud that I no longer feel less a woman because I am trans and not cis.

Growing up Transgender in America shouldn’t mean growing up to hate your body

To feel less than, because you are not like others

girls can have penises too and boys can have a vagina.

Growing up transgender in America shouldn’t mean that you may someday be murdered because you defied the gender binary

Somewhere in the world a transwoman is murdered every 35 minutes

It shouldn’t mean that you have more than a 41% chance of committing suicide like Leelah Alcorn and so many other children because people tell you are not real.

It shouldn’t mean you will be four times as likely to live in extreme poverty. and and have a 40% more likely to remain unemployed.

Growing up transgender shouldn’t include experiencing alarming rates of harassment physical violence , and sexual violence in school . or that you will be one of the 15% of trans youth that leave school and never graduate because of that violence

It shouldn’t mean you will receive unequal health care. That doctors and EMTs would refuse you treatment because of who you are.

That insurance companies will openly discriminate against you forcing you to pay exorbitant prices for lifesaving medication and surgical procedures

Growing up transgender in America shouldn’t mean that you be required to have your body invaded to have surgery in order to make your birth certificate match who you are. Why can’t a woman have a penis and still be a woman.

Our community is dedicated to changing it’s future. Right now We are concentrating on our school children. You will see people circulating among you asking you to sign a petition. That petition asks the Santa Fe School Board to implement a policy that offers a safe place for Transgender children to learn. To give them an equal chance at staying safe in school and getting the same education as any other child.

In time these things can and will change. There is hope for the future and that future begins with education. And in families. It begins with educating prospective parents to stand up against the gender binary and accept and love all of their children. Parents who know enough and care enough to let go of the gender binary’s social construct when they have a child who defies it. Schools willing to give transgender and gender non conforming students the same opportunities regardless of its inherit challenges.

Today we have come so far. Marriage equality is now law and the trans population of santa fe can now use public rest rooms in peace with out worry over being assaulted. Today love triumphs over bigotry equality in marriage is the law but true equality For the transgender community is still a long way off.


For more information on New Mexico transgender resources click here.


This Weekend

Happy birthday, America!

Weekend PicksFriday, July 3, 2015 by SFR

The Wizard of Oz

Movies at the Railyard presents the all-time family favorite and one you can sing along with.

More Info >>

The Long Road: From Selma to Ferguson

A Civil Rights exhibition showing the work of photojournalists that displays both how little and how far we've come. Through Sept. 27

More Info >>


4th of July BBQ and Party

DJs 12 Tribe and Guttermouth ring in the day of our independence and you make Will Smith jokes and feel like a genius. Also there's a barbecue and dancing. Swish.

More Info >>

Greg B. & The Gunsels at The Farmers Market

Celebrate our nation's independence with fresh produce and some of the best Americana around.

More Info >>


Cowgirl Brunch: Boris McCutcheon

Nothing says brunch like Americana. And nothing says you've got a hangover that could slay a walrus like the 5th of July...go ahead and get the bloody mary.

More Info >>

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Luis Buñuel's surrealist masterpiece follows as an upper-class sextet sits down to dinner but never eats, being thwarted by events real and imagined.

More Info >>




Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Morning Word: Drivers Take Advantage of Low Gas Prices

Prices are down close to a dollar compared to last Fourth of July

Morning WordFriday, July 3, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
It's Friday, July 3, 2015

If you’re planning a little road trip this Fourth of July weekend, you'll find gas prices down almost a dollar a gallon from last year’s price. SFR checked this morning, and it looks like the average price in New Mexico right now is $2.65 a gallon. In Santa Fe, if you shop around, you can find fuel for $2.42 a gallon. That’s 35 cents lower than the current national average.

Compare prices at Gas Buddy.com. 

It looks like Rio Arriba County has the highest number of drunk driving cases dismissed. Only 36 percent of people busted for DWI are convicted there.

Read more at the Albuquerque Journal. 

Reelz Channel, an Albuquerque-based cable network,  plans to air the Miss USA pageant now that NBC and Univision have decided to drop the show owned by Donald Trump, after he made ridiculously disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants. Reelz CEO Stan Hubbard told reporter Steve Terrell that he disagrees with Trump’s statements, but pageant fans shouldn’t have to pay for Trump’s comments.

Read more at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Catholic church leaders want 2016 Republican presidential candidates like Trump (who’s still polling second among likely GOP primary voters in some national surveys) to heed Pope Francis’ words on climate change and make the environment as big an issue as they have opposing marriage equality and abortion. 

Read the AP story here. 

With veterans still facing long waiting periods to get appointments at VA hospitals around the country, including Albuquerque, US Sen. Tom Udall (D, NM) says he is glad that a new clinic is being built to serve vets in southern New Mexico.

Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

A teachers union still doesn’t have the public documents it wants from the Public Education Department showing how it calculates teacher evaluations, and a state district judge has fined the agency for $485 for its slow response to the union’s requests.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

KUNM’s Rita Daniels talked to local National Education Association officials about their lawsuit and how the new grading system is driving teachers out of the classroom “in droves.”

Listen to her story here. 

Friends of the Mexican gray wolf are suing the federal government. They claim not enough is being done to protect the animals from being killed by private landowners.

Read it here. 

Lincoln County officials have finally received $3 million in federal emergency funds to repair roads washed out in summer rainstorms last year.

Read it here. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is spending part of his summer vacation in New Mexico. The Democrat even had lunch with Albuquerque’s Republican Mayor Richard Berry.

Read it at New Mexico Political Report. 

Enjoy the holiday and see you back here on Monday for another big news roundup.

Wolves in Court

Conservation groups sue Fish and Wildlife Service, arguing failure to protect endangered species

Local NewsFriday, July 3, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

A federal plan that's supposed to help restore populations of endangered wolves doesn't give the animals a fair chance for a real future, argues a new lawsuit filed by Western Environmental Law Center, WildEarth Guardians, Friends of Animals and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance against the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

One big issue in the litigation is just how many wolves there should be.

The feds have been working to revise the rules governing management of both gray wolves in the northern half of the country and Mexican wolves found in New Mexico and Arizona. In January, the service released a revised rule for Mexican wolves that expands the area wolves are allowed to occupy and the area they can initially be released from captivity. It also lists the Mexican wolf subspecies separate from the gray wolf for the first time for protections under the Endangered Species Act. The target population for Mexican wolves was increased from 100 to 300-325.

The rule allows for “take of” Mexican wolves to protect livestock and domestic dogs—as in, wolves can be shot if seen attacking either. Wolves can also be killed or removed to protect elk and deer from unacceptable impacts.

Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest regional director for the service, said at the announcement that the increased area will allow a larger, more genetically diverse population to be established while providing “necessary management tools to address negative interactions.”

The coalition of conservation groups that has filed the lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service and its director, Daniel Ashe, also naming Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the United States Department of the Interior in the lawsuit, argues that the plan fails to give Mexican wolves a decent chance at recovery. 

When the US Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced 11 captive-bred Mexican wolves to New Mexico and Arizona in 1998, there were no Mexican wolves left in the US. In the 17 years that followed, wolves climbed slowly toward what was thought, when the plan for recovery was crafted in 1982, a goal so ambitious it might never be attained: 100 wild Mexican wolves in the US. The number of wolves in the recovered population crept slowly toward that number, hovering in the 40s and 50s for most of a decade, before finally reaching 109 in 2014.

A scientific panel convened around 2011 estimated a healthy, sustainable and genetically diverse population of wolves would be 750 wolves in three distinct population areas, connected by corridors. The Fish and Wildlife Service itself reported in 2012 that the struggle toward recovery in part stemmed from too few wolves having been released from captivity to reintroduce the wild population.  

The population of Mexican wolves in New Mexico and Arizona is the world’s only wild population, the groups contend, and argue that as such, it deserves protection as an “essential experimental population,” rather than its current designation as “nonessential experimental population,” which allows for more flexibility in management. 

“The problem with that is that there’s only one wild population, so losing the one wild population would mean there are no more wild ones,” Judy Calman, staff attorney with New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, tells SFR. 

As relief, the lawsuit asks the Fish and Wildlife Service to classify the population as essential, acknowledging that if these Mexican wolves are eradicated, there will be none left in the world; use the best available science, which calls for higher population counts; and further provide for the conservation of the species.

“It doesn’t seem like recovery was really the objective,” Calman says. “It seems like a sort of political compromise among factions was the objective, and that’s just really not what Fish and Wildlife is charged with doing.”

The lawsuit was filed Thursday, July 2, in US District Court. Hearings will take place in Tucson.

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