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Cutting through the Bond

City staff posts proof of parks spending

Local NewsTuesday, May 26, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Roughly $1.7 million remains from the $30.3 million in bond money dedicated to expanding and improving dozens of parks and countless trails in the City Different, city officials say Tuesday.

Now, it’s up to the Santa Fe City Council to decide whether that’s true or if some of the money was misappropriated or misspent over the last half decade.

The top rung of the city’s staff held a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday morning to discuss an 18-page report that was released to elected officials on Friday. In an effort to exonerate the city of wrongdoing raised in a an April audit, the city also posted thousands of documents of the improvements online, along with photographs and the costs—all funded with taxpayer money.

In all, 54 parks and eight trails were either created, saw expansion and/or were improved across Santa Fe, the result of a bond passed by voters in 2008, says Ike Pino, head of the city’s Public Works Department.

“The money was not squandered,” he says. “All anybody needs to do is take a look around them and look at their parks and they'll see.”

Basketball courts were created, irrigation systems were installed, tennis courts were resurfaced, trail heads were made more accessible. And Teresita Garcia, the city’s assistant finance director, says now everyone can see the documentation to prove it, from the work order down to the payroll.

Earlier this year, an independent audit conducted by REDW LLC of Albuquerque, reported problems with the city’s accounting of some of the projects, forcing the staff and Garcia to cobble together all the projects in under two months in the wake of the critical audit.

City Attorney Kelley Brennan says the city should admit “an organizational problem,” but not one of misappropriation, at least as far as she can tell.

“If there is a problem, then we want to know about it,” she says. “We tried to focus on the facts and the records. I understand there’s a lot to look at it, but it’s all there.”

When the audit was released, it criticized the city for not following bookkeeping procedures properly and found missing financial information on some of the projects. The city, in its defense, said the recession in 2008 forced it to rely on city employees to make the improvements instead of private contractors, a strategy that ended up convoluting its traditional accounting practices for capital improvements.

City Manager Brian Snyder said the compiling of all the documents and streamlining them into one “user friendly” manner was just “the beginning of the conversation.”

“Now Joe Q Public,” he adds, “can go online and look at everything we’ve done.”

A pair of resolutions were set for consideration by the city’s Public Works Committee Tuesday night on the next step in what has become a public works saga. Proposals call for a public hearing and another, more detailed audit.

At least one city councilor, Carmichael Dominguez, isn’t sure whether the city’s work went far enough, saying there were questions that still needed to be answered.

But Dominguez said he was very pleased with the city staff for looking into everything.



Morning Word: Insurance Rates Set to Jump

New Mexico's rate increase could be nation's steepest

Morning WordTuesday, May 26, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
It looks like some New Mexicans could be facing sticker shock if their health insurers get approval to boost rates more than 50 percent. It sounds bad, but experts say you don’t need to panic yet.

Read it at the Wall Street Journal.

A sad ending to Memorial Day as a 49-year-old Rio Rancho police officer was shot and killed. Details are still developing this morning, but SFR received an email from the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department just before 4 am, and a spokesman says deputies have arrested one of two suspects in connection with the shooting.

Read the latest here. 

New Mexico Law Enforcement Training Academy Director Jack Jones is confident his new police cadet curriculum will pass muster when Attorney General Hector Balderas takes a second look at it.
As some law enforcement academies across the country scale back on military-style training in the wake of deadly shootings and riots, here in New Mexico, the top cadet instructor stands behind his police-training material, which includes an officer survival lesson plan that teaches cadets to have a “warrior mindset.”

Uriel J Garcia reports. 

Freelance journalist Tom O’Connell takes a long look at what he calls Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera’s “hidden agenda.”

Read it at ABQ Free Press. 

At least it looks like everyone agrees students will spend less time on standardized tests next year.

Read it at the Taos News. 

Construction workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant have started installing a new ventilation system that will eventually provide more airflow to employees working underground. Engineers designed the new system after a radiation leak there in February 2014.

The Associated Press has details. 

Pegasus Global Holdings, a Washington DC-based technology company, is getting closer to spending a billion dollars to build a “fake” city in southern New Mexico to test out new technology and urban design systems.

Read the latest on the project at New Mexico Political Report. 


Parents who live in mountain communities in New Mexico need to be aware that newborns appear to be more susceptible to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at higher elevations.

The Santa Fe New Mexican has the AP story. 

The creative and popular “New Mexico True” tourism advertising campaign is leading to a record number of new visitors, according to Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham.
As of December 2014, the state of New Mexico reports almost 90,000 people working in the tourism industry and as of 2013, more than $4.5 billion in spending by visitors. 
Read it at KOB.com. 

Lodgers and small businesses in Red River had been hoping for a larger turnout for the village’s annual Memorial Day motorcycle rally. Rain appears to have kept some people away. While fewer bikers attended this year, according to reporter Justin Horwath, violence did not break out among rival gangs, unlike the deadly confrontation earlier in the month in Waco, Texas.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

If you’re planning to take advantage of low fuel prices with a staycation this summer, you can expect to pay a little more to get into White Sands National Monument. The cost for a seven-day pass is going up $2 per person .
 “This increase in fees will allow us to continue to protect, preserve and share the special places here at White Sands with current visitors and future generations,” White Sands Superintendent Marie Sauter said. “After carefully considering the impact of a fee increase on visitors and community members, we came to the conclusion that this is the right course of action to improve facilities and services important to visitors, while keeping White Sands affordable and still providing a great experience.” 
Read it at the Albuquerque Journal. 

Officials say they’ve decided to put down a bear that bit two campers over Memorial Day weekend in Durango...if they can find it.

Read more at KRQE.com. 

More bad news, this time not for bears but for Lobos. UNM baseball fans are used to seeing their team win the Mountain West Conference championships over the past few years. San Diego State beat them this time 6-4 to take the title.

Read it at the Daily Lobo. 

Speaking of baseball, Madrid has dedicated at new grandstand at its legendary ballpark.
Those old grandstands had deteriorated in the decades since they were built and in recent years there’s been a community push to rebuild them. Four years ago, with state and county help, a new shell for the grandstands was built. Monday, the job’s been finished and those grandstands are complete. 
The ballpark, Alex Goldsmith reports, is named after Oscar Huber, the coal company executive who had the grandstands built and whose family once owned the town.

See Alex's story at KRQE.com.

Hollywood crews are taking over parts of Portales this week to shoot Comancheria, a movie starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster.

Read it here. 

Game of Thrones for Noobs VII

Season 5, Episode 7: "The Gift"

Pop CultureMonday, May 25, 2015 by Alex De Vore

The Story Thus Far
Arya Stark finally made some progress toward becoming faceless, but at the expanse of some serious face slappin’ while her sister Sansa married that Ramsay Bolton jerk who raped her (which pissed off the entire Internet) in front of Theon/Reek. Baelish visited Cersei, who made threats about skinning people while some old broad made threats about the bread supply in King’s Landing. Everyone everywhere was a complete homophobe while Margaery’s brother Slow Loras was persecuted based on his sexual orientation and taken away to jail along with his sister (how they gonna arrest the queen?!). Jamie and Baron Chinstrap mounted the worst rescue ever in Dorne and got arrested after some bad bitch with a spear kicked their asses. Tyrion was double kidnapped by some dudes who were on the lookout for a cock merchant, and your old pal Alex was baffled at the thought that somebody cooked up and subsequently wrote about such a thing as a cock merchant.

The Gist
More trouble with the Wildlings at the Wall means that Jon Snow has to, once again, stand around looking somber and nodding silently at his jackoff co-workers. So maybe it’s a little unpopular and flawed to trust those bearded bastards, and his pals tell him he sucks and stuff. The pudgy fucker who killed an ice zombie before hands him his obsidian dagger and is, like, holding back tears while they ride off to God knows where. The old monk bastard who hangs around the Night’s Watch doling out sage advice meets his grandson. Or maybe it’s just some other baby? Either way, he’s obviously sick or tired or something. Still, he has enough of his faculties to tell them to get the baby out of the icy, barren land near the Wall. Oh, so babies don’t like to freeze to death? Novel. Anyway, he dies, and the pudgy guy makes this super-trite speech about how his fire went out before they burn his old bastard corpse and some other guy tells the pudgy guy that he’s running out of friends. Apparently, killing an ice zombie doesn’t build social capital betwixt the Night’s Watch the way it might if you or someone you know had done the same.

Sansa, meanwhile, is still crying in bed after that Ramsay fucker committed his terrible crime. For the first time, she seems to realize that marrying into the Boltons was a terrible idea, but you’ve got to wonder why she didn’t see it coming already or why she listened to Baelish about marrying this fucker in the first place. Apparently, she is kept locked in her room all day with nothing to read until Ramsay comes at night to rape her. Jesus Christ. Y’know, I wasn’t entirely clear about why everyone was so upset about last week’s rape scene (sometimes ugliness is a part of art and storytelling, and while it is definitely hard to watch, I believe that any topic can be explored by artists and writers, etc.), but this is pretty fucked, and I get it now. Sure, Ramsay is evil, but this has become straight gratuitous and completely unnecessary to the moving along of the story.

Anyway, Sansa convinces Theon/Reek to light a candle in the top of the broken tower, because apparently, there are, like, friends or knights or whoever on standby to save her if she needs. But he goes to see Ramsay instead. What the fuck, man?! It wasn’t bad enough you killed her brothers already?!?!? This dude needs to grow a backbone or at least stop fucking over Sansa every chance he gets.

So then Sansa goes to meet with Ramsay and pisses him off by pointing out that he’s a bastard while he fumes and flexes his spooky eyes at her. She starts to feel good about sassin’ him, but then he’s like, “Check out that old lady who was going to help you and how I’ve skinned and crucified her.” Fuck. Surely this will build to some moment of empowerment for her, because if she doesn’t kill him, I’ll work out some kind of Stay Tuned situation and handle it myself.

Elsewhere, Stannis’ army learns that Napoleonic lesson about how an army shouldn’t fight snowy countries in the snow. He talks about how “winter is coming” and becomes the first person to point out that it’s just how the fucking planet works. He doesn’t wish to be remembered as a king who retreats, and though his advisors seem to be against it, they don’t want to challenge that thought. He tells his witch (the one who tried to bang Jon Snow a few episodes ago) that she needs to be sure, and she slowly walks over to him, looks deep into his eyes and is like, “Yup.” He likes this and tries to make out with her, but she is all business. And eyebrows. She tries to relate to him the saying “What’s past is prologue” and tells him to kill his daughter (maybe…might’ve needed to read the books for that shit to make sense) and that he’s the only king who can fight the zombies.

Back at the Wall, the showrunners continue to set back feminism a hundred years by hinting at what might be another rape, but the pudgy guy appears to save this poor girl who is being attacked by two losers. They beat his ass pretty hard, but it seems to just spur him on so insanely that he manifests a gigantic fucking white wolf into existence as if from nowhere, with the power of his dynamic brain! Either that or the wolf lives nearby. Regardless, he proves that he’s a total badass and sticks up for her, and the wolf goes back to reading up on Susan B Anthony and being a friend of women. That’s a good wolf. 

The woman is grateful to the pudgy bastard (even though he didn’t do shit, and it was all the wolf), so she thanks him by cleaning his wounds and then banging him. It would seem that Game of Thrones errs toward the less sexy kinds of sex at every turn, but you’ve gotta hand it to the guy—he finally got lucky. Still, as a pudgy dude myself, I resent the implication that a pudgy guy having sex should be treated only as a thank you or as an almost unbelievable situation.

We rejoin those guys who wanted to cut off Tyrion’s dick as they sell the guy who originally kidnapped the poor little guy into slavery. Tyrion, clearly suffering from Stockholm syndrome, beats the fuck out of some guy to prove he’s tough enough to be bought alongside him/not be separated. And that’s it. There’s never enough Tyrion in this season.

In Mereen (See? I’m learning the names!), Dragon Tits fields a mid-sex proposal from some hipster she’s banging, who is then upset that she wants to marry that guy who’s all about the fighting pits. He suggests that she kill a whole mess of dudes to flex her power, and she’s like, “Naw.”

Back in King’s Landing (I think), that old lady who sassed Cersei awhile last time around meets with the High Sparrow, and they talk about how they’re old, which probably makes a few older viewers at home force a laugh and say something like, “Tell me about it!” She offers the High Sparrow some cash to let her grandchildren free (apparently her grandchildren are Slow Loras and Sneaky Margaery), but he ain’t having it. He hates liars and gay people, but what makes him so great? The old lady makes more threats, but the Sparrow has a snarky answer to goddamn everything. Ooh, I hate him so much! And so does the king. He all but goes on a hunger strike and shouts so loud his voice cracks. Cersei whispers hollow words of consolation into his ears and is like, “Everyone you ever love will die, so you should never love anyone who isn’t me.” Tommen is confused, because he apparently loves Margaery, but methinks it is a case of a young dude falling for the first girl he ever slept with…or he’s an idiot, because Margaery is kind of cold and calculating. Oh shit! So is his mom! Is he Oedipus-ing? I think he is! I mean, Cersei is hot, but still…

Over in Dorne, Jamie is imprisoned in some beautifully appointed room made of gold surrounded by fine oils and silks and stuff, and he finally sees his niece/daughter and is all like, “Check out my gold hand!” and, “People are going to kill you, probably.” She doesn’t want to leave because she’s in love. Eat it, Jamie! Chinstrap, by the way, is in jail with those women who beat his ass, but the ass-beating he suffered seems like a forced plea from the show to prove they can write women who aren’t objects and—oh, never mind, because one of the tough women starts taking off all her clothes for no apparent reason. It’s more of a Matahari-like situation, though, because the dude starts passing out at the sight of her naked body. At first, it seems like she has magic boobs, but it turns out that she stabbed him earlier with a poisoned dagger and won’t give him the antidote until he says she’s pretty. What!? This is what’s important to her as a world-class fighter and all-around tough-ass individual!?

We pop in on Baelish as he surveys the damage done to his brothel by the Sparrows. He finds the old broad who threatens everyone there, and she reminds him they killed Joffrey together and then threatens him, too. He tells her that he has some sneaky info (probably something about Winterfell and Ramsay), and they cut away because seriously—this show can’t stay focused. It’s not building tension, it’s pissing people off. Mostly me.

Dragon Tits, meanwhile, has made her way to one of the fighting pit fights to check it out after signing it back into law. This has the kidnapper dude all psyched, as he’s been trying to get back to her to show how he kidnapped Tyrion. The fighting pits are, of course, brutal, and for a lady who keeps executing fools, the violence seems to be difficult for her to watch. Her fiancé tells her that she needs to stay, though, and it’s a good thing he does because the kidnapper guy who originally kidnapped Tyrion (and who’s name I still don’t fucking know) pops out to kill everyone. What do I mean, everyone? I mean, Gary-Oldman-shouting-in-The Professional EVERYONE! 

Daenerys is surprised to see him and is all, “Get the fuck out!” Apparently this is the first time Tyrion and Daenerys have met, and maybe if I had read the books or watched the show before now, this moment would have been a bigger deal.

We find Cersei popping in on Margaery in prison with leftovers and lying about the stuff she’s doing on the outside. The new queen isn’t buying it, though, and tells Cersei all kinds of mean stuff about how her kid doesn’t love her anymore. 

The main takeaway here is that prison looks boring and has no snacks. And Cersei likes it. She smiles with glee at the thought of what she has wrought. She meets up with the High Sparrow, who sits around in a crypt acting like some sort of King’s Landing version of Pat Robertson and provides history lessons that were not requested. He has a very strong respect for the masonry of yore and hates gold, but he is still kind of a dick and should not be allowed to decide who fucks whom. He does, however, start to point his judgment finger at Cersei, who is maybe beginning to wonder if she created a monster even worse than her. They have her taken away, too, which might be surprising, but if you know anything about how stories work, it’s pretty much exactly what was going to happen. Still, she says this badass thing to these nuns who drag her into her cell: “Look at my face. It’s the last thing you’ll see before you die.” God, it would rule to say that to an enemy.

Pros: Things moved at a faster clip this week, and the sex ’n violence sure didn’t hurt. 

Cons: Seriously, GoT, the way y’all write women is fucking appalling.

The Grade: D-Minus. It absolutely sucks that they had that one character be more concerned with looking pretty than being awesome at stabbing fools.

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights on HBO. Animated GIFs via Uproxx.

Rained Out

Forest fire season could be muted by recent storms in New Mexico, one of wettest Mays on record

Local NewsMonday, May 25, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

May is usually one of the driest months in New Mexico.

But the series of rainstorms since mid-April have significantly reduced the severity of the state’s drought while delivering another piece of good news: This summer’s fire season could be a bust in New Mexico and across much of the Southwest US.

That’s according to Rich Naden, a fire meteorologist with the Southwest Coordination Center in Albuquerque, the anchor agency that keeps tabs on the forest fire forecast and dispatches firefighting crews across a dozen states when wildfires break out.

Since April 17, as many as 4 inches of rain have fallen on parts of central New Mexico, with 1 to 2 inches across other parts of the Land of Enchantment, a deluge that’s very unusual for late spring in the high desert, Naden tells SFR.

In fact, it could be a record-breaker, he adds.

“This could turn out to be one of the wettest Mays in the state’s history,” he says. “Generally speaking, when we’re going into the Memorial Day weekend, things are usually warming up, and the forest is getting drier and drier out there.

“But temperatures have been well below normal, and I don’t have to tell you about the rain. We’ve been squashed by it.”

If wildfires were to break out on BLM and Forest Service land, they’re more likely to occur, Naden says, in the northwest part of the state, the region that has received the least amount of rain and happens to be most ripe for wildfires.

The southwestern part of New Mexico, as well, could suffer a spate of grass fires, Naden says.

But for the most part, homeowners whose adobes and abodes butt up against national forests, should be able to breathe a little easier, he says.

And yet is the forecast that there will be few, if any, wildfires this year good news?

For property owners, yes, without question.

For those who fight fires on a seasonal and basis, and whose livelihood has come to rely on them, not really.

It’s virtually Ecology 101 that forest fires are a natural part of the forest’s life cycle and that it runs contrary to nature to suppress them, although in this case, the suppression has occurred naturally with the recent rains that are 150 to 600 percent of normal, Naden says.

Hector Madrid, state fire management officer for the Bureau of Land Management, says there are 110 firefighting personnel and more than a dozen wildland fire engines ready to go at a moment’s notice to protect 13.8 million acres of BLM land across the state.

“Firefighters don’t wish bad things on people, but to be good at what they do, they need to get some practice in,” says Madrid. “I’m just being honest: They do like to be out there fighting fires. It’s just what they do, and if they’re not going to be fighting them here, there’s still a good chance that they’ll be fighting them elsewhere, like in Arizona or who knows where.

“It can all happen out of the blue. Conditions can change in a day or two, especially if you get high winds.”

Certainly New Mexico is no stranger to forest fires this time of year, with the most recent blazes still on the tips of the tongues of residents who suffered through them and the firefighters who went up against them.

There was Las Conchas Fire in June 2011 that ripped through the Santa Fe National Forest a few days after the Summer Solstice, consuming 150,000 acres while delivering a double whammy: threatening the highly nuclear Los Alamos Laboratory and the town of Los Alamos. That was started by a downed power line.

For 5 straight days, it burned, becoming the largest wildfire in the history of New Mexico, only to be upstaged a year later by the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, which tore through nearly 300,000 acres in the second week of May in the Gila National Forest. That one was started by a pair of lightning strikes, which led to the merging of two fires into one great big one.

And it’s kind of ironic because the recent storms that have hovered over New Mexico are the result of merging storm systems: One from California’s Southern Pacific, which blew north and east, the other from Texas, which moved north and west, creating what Naden calls a “perfect storm over New Mexico.”

Add the El Niño factor into the mix, and suddenly the Land of Enchantment looks like the Pacific Northwest in the winter. Cold steady rain has been the norm, not the exception; roads leading up to Placer Peak in the Ortiz Mountains are caked in mud; it’s as though the monsoon season has arrived early, with a series of storms that have hit the City Different like clockwork in the late afternoons.

Memorial Day barbecues in Santa Fe appear safe, however, with weather forecasts calling for temperatures in the 60s and just a 20 percent chance of rain.

This Weekend

Native art and Harvey Girls

Weekend PicksFriday, May 22, 2015 by SFR

One Hundred Years of Pottery and Paintings

This collection features art from a century of artists' work from the Pueblo of San Ildefonso. Through June 30

More Info >>

The Moment of Yes!

Theater Grottesco presents this theatrical event blending music, drama and dance designed to explore communication and culture. For tickets, visit santafeplayhouse.org

More Info >>


Native Treasures Indian Arts Festival

Over 200 artists working in different media present museum-quality pieces during this huge show and sale. For more info, visit nativetreasures.org

More Info >>

Harvey Girls Day

Artist, Willard Clark, creates commemorative placemats in honor of "Harvey Girls Day." At front desk, only while supplies lasts.

More Info >>


Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival presents Stars in the Dark

Stars in the Dark pays tribute to the refugee filmmakers who bled for film noir, and your pals at the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival provide film, cabaret, salons and more at the CCA and various other venues. See Film for more info.

More Info >>

The Jme Russell

Jaimie Russell takes a break from Chango to play solo. Expect an appearance from Keith Moon's drum-set.

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.

Pot Applicants Kept Secret

Health Department shields public records

Local NewsFriday, May 22, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Medical pot patients who want to know who has applied for a license to grow their medication in New Mexico may not get a chance to learn about applicants before licenses are awarded by New Mexico Secretary of Health Retta Ward later this year.

Medical Cannabis Program managers tell SFR they will not make public any part of the 86 applications submitted to the department after Ward reopened the application process in February. Ward has indicated she’ll award up a dozen nonprofit licenses.

Patient groups and open government supporters say that’s not fair. They want the opportunity to screen the applicants and provide the health department public comments before any new licenses are issued.

“For one thing, we want to know who is committed to testing their marijuana and who has the strongest experience growing cannabis,” says patient Sarah Dolk.

She says communities have a legal right to screen finalists for university presidents, police chiefs and school superintendents and she wants the right to screen new pot growers.

Getting access to the records will be an uphill battle. Requests for information about the current 23 licenses producers have been consistently denied over the years, so this week’s decision to deny a request filed under the state Inspection of Public Records Act wasn’t a surprise.

Originally, lawmakers and regulators worried that a conflict with federal law would trigger raids and arrests and shielded participants names.

“When the rule was created the political landscape was quite different. New Mexico was the first state to regulate medical cannabis at the state level and when regulations were created there was still great fear that federal agents would crack down on this pioneering program,” says Jessica Gelay, a Drug Policy Alliance program coordinator. “Now, other states have implemented similar regulatory models and there are Department of Justice guidelines that seemingly protect participants in well-run state programs.

Still, Andrea Sundberg, a cannabis program coordinator, says state regulations prohibit access to any identifying information about current producers or new applicants.

“A pending application for licensure as a non-profit producer shall be confidential and not subject to disclosure.” Accordingly, the requested materials are deemed confidential and not disclosed,” writes Sundberg in an email to SFR.

But that public records exemption isn’t completely spelled out in state statute. Instead, the health department regulators, cite a “as otherwise provided by law” provision in the Inspection of Public Records Act and claim their rules become “other laws” once they’re published in the state register.

That doesn’t comply with legislators' intent, says New Mexico Foundation for Open Government President Greg Williams. He contends the health department is misapplying the “other laws" provision.

“I’m unaware of any other drug manufacturers being able to sell and distribute their products without being publicly identified,” says Williams. “There is no reason for the names of these producers not to be public.”

Regulators' concerns about conflicts with federal laws do not override the public’s right to know who is involved in a public health program, according to Williams.

“Specifically public agencies should not be able to create barriers to public access to records by passing regulations that insulate themselves from public records request,” Williams tells SFR. “If public agencies are allowed to pass their own confidentiality regulations then the purpose and intent of IPRA is completely undercut.”

Others say current producers, who have published websites and purchase newspaper ad space, have forfeited any privacy protections.

Patients registration in the program is automatically protected from public disclosure because individual medical records are not public documents. But, the state’s health department is a public agency running a public health program. The licenses that are issued, by rule cannot be sold, exchanged or bartered, and must be returned to the department on demand.

Larry Love, a medical pot patient and industry analyst, says that makes them public licenses and subject to public review.

The health department isn’t the only agency using regulatory rules to bypass public records law.

The New Mexico Correction Department recently denied SFR’s written request to review prison inmate grievances at the state prison in Santa Fe and at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility. The claim a department policy prohibits the release of the grievances because they're now considered "legal mail." 

The corrections department did provide SFR monthly statistic logs showing grievance by category for all their state facilities.

Morning Word: Defense Bill Includes Millions for New Mexico Base

National Defense Authorization Act also authorizes labs nuclear weapon's program money

Morning WordFriday, May 22, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
There might not be any capital outlay money for state construction jobs in New Mexico this year, but the economy in Clovis could be getting a big boost if Congress approves funding for big dollar projects at Cannon Air Force Base. That plus the Tapia-Padilla family feud continues.

It's Friday, May 22, 2015

US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, voted to advance funding for big-dollar projects at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis.
The money breakdown: $7.8 million for a new entry control gatehouse; $20.4 million for new pump house and fuel storage; $11.65 million for a new operations and training center for trainers; $13.14 million for a new building to train special operations forces; $480 million for remotely piloted aircraft missions at Cannon and Holloman AFB. There’s also a provision in a new Senate bill requiring the secretary of defense to submit a comprehensive 5-year plan for the Melrose Bombing Range. 
Read more here.

The New Mexico Board of Finance has decided to provide the Office of the Public Defender an emergency $400,000 loan they need to continue to provide defendants legal representation through the end of June. But the courts have denied funds for magistrate courts, which will have to solve their budget crunch another way.

Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News.

The state of New Mexico has reached a settlement with two advocacy groups, which claimed people with developmental disabilities were denied access to care.
Jim Jackson, executive director of Disability Rights New Mexico, said that under the agreement, program participants who are denied or have limitations on services imposed will have a better appeal process. “In the meantime, people can regain access to therapies and other services that had been denied under the current system.” 
Steve Terrell has details.

Despite testimony that shows renewable energy sources are a reliable and cost-efficient energy source, business leaders are rallying behind the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s plan to continue using coal and imported nuclear power.

Read it at ABQ Business First. 

A Terrier Black Brant missile test was aborted at White Sands Missile Range on Thursday after its flight trajectory failed.

"It was brought down over the range, where no damage to anyone or anything could be done," said Cammy Montory, WSMR spokeswoman. "A sweep of US [Highway] 70 was also conducted to make sure no debris from the rocket fell on the road. No debris were found on the highway."

The Las Cruces Sun-News has more. 

The US Air Force wants to incinerate targets such as incoming missiles with laser weapons mounted on C-17s by 2023, and a lot of the development on the weapon’s system is being done in New Mexico.
The High Energy Laser, or HEL, is being tested by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland Air Force Base. Ground tests are slated for later this year [at White Sands Missile Range] as part of a plan to precede air-launched laser weapons firing evaluations, Mica Endsley, Air Force Chief Scientist, told Military.com in an interview. 

Read more here. 

That’s not the only system being developed here. The Army is also developing its air defense system at the range.

Read more here. 

Those new state-mandated teacher evaluations are supposed to help educators improve and develop their classroom skills, but close to two dozen teachers in Taos have burned their evaluations, claiming they’re riddled with errors.

Cody Hooks reports. 

Meanwhile, Albuquerque Public School Board members have voted not to pay the state for PARCC testing.

Read it here. 

The widow of boxing champ Johnny Tapia continues to battle the Padilla family in Albuquerque. She’s suing them for trademark infringement. Yesterday, Tapia admitted to felony drug convictions and told reporters she’s in fear for her life. She didn’t list any specific threats or mention that her cousin Pamela Chavez testified in court earlier this week that she believed that Tapia has forged her notary signature on legal documents.

See it at KOB.com. 

Television’s “Judge Judy” Sheindlin delivered the commencement speech to graduates in Shiprock. She told the students to enjoy their life’s journey.

See the video here. 

Like you, we’re headed out to enjoy a long 3-day holiday weekend, so there won’t be a Morning Word on Monday. We’ll be back on Tuesday with a big state news recap.

Drug Hotline Gets 400 Calls

Councilor Bill Dimas wants evaluation of whether city tip line for narcotics leads to arrests

Local NewsThursday, May 21, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Do hotlines actually work?

It has been a little over a year since Santa Fe’s regional drug tip hotline has been in operation, and now the city councilor behind it is asking for a review of all tips to see how effective they’ve been.

Councilor Bill Dimas, who also chairs the city’s Public Safety Committee, wants Ken Martinez, the director of the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Center, to look into hundreds of tips that have come in since April of last year and whether they have led to any arrests or convictions.

“It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart—stopping drug trafficking,” says Dimas, a former judge and police officer who lost his daughter, Brandi, four years ago, to drug abuse at the age of 32.

“You name it, she used it,”  adds Dimas, who made the hotline a part of his platform in his unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2014.  “I don’t know if you know this, but Santa Fe has a huge heroin problem, as does much of the country, and it’s time we tried to put a stop to it.”

In the last 13 months, about 400 calls have come into the hotline, averaging roughly 30 calls per per month, Martinez told members of the committee on May 19.

Yet Martinez says it’s going to take some detective work to track down how many tips have actually resulted in arrests, something he plans to look into in the coming months before reporting back to Dimas and the committee.

“What we do know for sure,” Martinez tells SFR, “is that when a tip is called in, if it’s in progress, then we try to send an officer over there right away.”

But if the tip deals with something along the lines of, “I think my neighbor is selling drugs,” then the complaint is forwarded to the investigations unit of the appropriate law enforcement agency, Martinez says.

Sgt. Andrea Dobyns, a public information officer for the Santa Fe police department, says narcotics investigators usually conduct surveillance based on the tip if it seems credible. Everything takes time when it comes to drug busts, she says, especially if deals are not in progress and officers are going off a tip.

“It’s not like we can go in and bust a door down based on a tip,” says Dobyns, who uses the police department Facebook to advertise the hotline. “But the hotline is definitely helping in determining places where there might be suspicious activities.”

Seven dispatchers answer the hotline, which is run out of the RECC. The service area includes the city of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County and the town of Edgewood. The line has a distinctive ring to it, and dispatchers on duty tend to it over the course of their shifts.

“There was no cost implement it,” Martinez notes. “The only costs really are personnel costs; answering it is factored into their job duties.”

Martinez says he thinks the hotline is an important law enforcement tool because it gives the public “an avenue” to call law enforcement on suspicious activity as it relates to drugs.

“We’re talking about everything and anything,” Martinez says, adding: “It’s important for the citizens to reach out to us if they think something illegal is going on.”

This is not the first time the center has used a special hotline, Martinez says. He says about seven years ago officials called for a rape hotline to deal with what seemed to be an increase in sexual assaults in the city and the county. That hotline has since been disconnected, and it didn’t last as long as the drug tip hotline, Martinez says.

Want to narc you neighbor? The drug hotline number is 428-3737.

Morning Word: Udall Pushes Energy Diversification

National standard would save consumers billions

Morning WordThursday, May 21, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
A national debate is heating up over who should determine energy policies in the future. New Mexico's two senators support a national standard with more renewable sources, but critics say that takes regulatory power away from the states. Despite the cool temperatures, it's almost be time for summer and that means baseball is back in Santa Fe. Go Fuego!

It's Thursday, May 21, 2015

US Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, a co-sponsor of a bill that would require utilities like the Public Service Company of New Mexico, to generate 30 percent of their energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources, says that a new national standard would slow electric rate increases and create thousands of new jobs.
“Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES,” Udall said. “More than half the states — including New Mexico — have widely successful RES policies, and it’s time to go all in. I’ve long pushed for a ‘do it all, do it right’ energy policy, and a RES will help us get there.” 
Sen. Martin Heinrich is also a bill co-sponsor.

Reporter Sarah Matott has details. 

Meanwhile, Heinrich has joined forces with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, to oppose the renewal of the US Patriot Act.

Read it here

Debra Haaland, the chairwoman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, wants Secretary of State Dianna Duran and Attorney General Hector Balderas to investigate the state GOP’s use of the state seal on a controversial email.

Read her letter. 

The state’s Republican Party wants all of State Auditor Tim Keller’s emails and expense reports since taking office in January, but claims their request is being ignored. Keller’s staff says it’s responding to the “burdensome” request.

Read it here. 

Former Educational Retirement Board Chairman Bruce Malott’s civil racketeering lawsuit against financial firms and investment advisors has been dismissed.
State District Judge Matthew J. Wilson of Santa Fe threw out the case with prejudice, which means it can’t be refiled unless the ruling is overturned on appeal. Wilson said in an order filed last week that many of the wide-ranging alleged criminal activities alleged in Malott’s lawsuit were not directed at him or directly caused harm to his reputation. The judge also said none of the defendants in Malott’s case has been charged with a crime because of the alleged schemes he outlined. 
Mike Gallagher has the scoop. 

A new report found that a large portion of New Mexico’s seniors live in poverty. America’s Health Rankings Senior Report ranked New Mexico 47th in the country for the number of seniors living in poverty, at nearly 12 percent.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

A national nursing home wants Balderas to dismiss a lawsuit pushed by private lawyers exposed in The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning article.
The suit against the Texas-based Preferred Care Partners Management Group — one of the largest nursing home chains in the country — alleges the business has skimpy staffing levels that make it impossible to provide good care to residents of the nursing homes. 
Read it here. 

Following the deadly biker gang shootout in Texas, New Mexico State Police plan an increased presence at this weekend’s rally in Red River as the Bandidos roll into town.

See more at KOB.com

Local bikers tell journalist Staci Matlock the violence in Texas ;won't "taint" this weekend's annual event in Northern New Mexico.

Read it here.

Boaters and RV’ers are already showing up at Elephant Butte for the holiday weekend.

Read it at the Deming Headlight. 

What will it take to make the New Mexico State Fairgrounds a competitive venue for national and regional events? Auditor Tim Keller has some ideas.

Read them at ABQ Business First.

Speaking of improvements, a group of consultants are sharing their ideas for $2 million dollars worth of Main Street revitalization projects in downtown Farmington.

Read it at the Daily Times. 

A new tourism marketing director in Taos has resigned after just two months.

Read it at the Taos News. 

New Mexico Highlands University regents have decided which of the six finalists they want to hire as the school’s next president, but they’re keeping their selection quiet until negotiations with the individual have been completed.
After meeting behind closed doors for several hours on Monday, regents emerged to announce that board chairman Leveo Sanchez and board member Frank Marchi had been given authority to begin negotiations with the individual selected. 
Read it at the Las Vegas Optic.  

A group of Millennial business leaders wants the PRC to reconsider their recents votes on Uber and Lyft’s ride-sharing services.
 "We're all under 35. We're the future of business, and we're trying to take a leadership role," said Josh Rogers, the development project manager for Titan Development and leader of the NAIOP group. "As young developing leaders of the business community, we'd like to see the PRC make regulations that are appropriate in the market, and let the market decide the restrictions on Uber and Lyft that have caused Lyft to already leave the market, and lets let the market decide what transportation options are available and not let a regulation decide that.” 
Dan Mayfield has the story. 

A national law journal has laid out its analysis of what “Breaking Bad” character Walter White’s trial might have looked like if he had survived and had been convicted. In New Mexico, he wouldn’t have faced the death penalty,  since that law was repealed a few years ago.

Read it at KOAT. 

Baseball is back in Santa Fe for the summer and the Fuego team is off to a fast start. More than 500 fans watched them trounce the Las Vegas Train Robbers, 10 to 5.

Morning Word: Where's the Beef?

State workers wait months for back pay.

Morning WordWednesday, May 20, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
State employees say they want back pay awarded to them in a settlement sooner than later. But officials says calculations are difficult to sort out. That, plus Santa Fe police will be getting 90 new body cameras soon.

It's Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A few thousand state government employees are still owed back pay, and it doesn’t look like anyone is in a rush to cut checks.

Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

At least the state’s back roads are well maintained and highly ranked.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

We all had already pretty much figured this out, but all those rain storms are helping to “fend off” wildfires. Still, the precipitation won’t be a “drought buster.”

Justin Horwath reports. 

Mexican gray wolf supporters rallied in Santa Fe yesterday. They’re upset about a state Game and Fish Department decision to deny the renewal permit at Ted Turner’s ranch.
One rally-goer held a sign accusing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez – who appoints the commission – of a “war on wildlife.” 
Read it at the ABQ Journal. 

The Santa Fe Public Safety Committee is recommending the police force purchase up to 90 body cameras for its police officers.

Uriel J Garcia has the story. 

Las Cruces police officers will also be equipped with body cameras, and the folks at the Las Cruces Sun-News think that’s a great idea.
"They help build trust between police and the community. Now, when there is a dispute as to what happened during a search or an arrest, it will no longer be the officer's word, backed up by fellow officers, against the suspect's word, backed up by his or her friends and family. Cameras provide an objective perspective.” 
Read more here. 

Two Las Cruces police officers have been fired after an investigation into a suspect’s beating in a holding cell.

Read it here. 

Albuquerque's new police oversight board is off to a slow start and has delayed reviewing complaints against officers until it gets more training and clarifies its rules.

Ryan Boetel reports. 

Administrative Office of the Courts Director Artie Pepin will appear before the state Board of Finance Thursday to request emergency funding of $750,000 for operations of magistrate courts through June.
In April, the governor vetoed a $750,000 supplemental appropriation approved by the Legislature to address underfunding partly caused by a loss of revenues from vetoes in 2014. 
Read it online. 

The Albuquerque Journal is defending its decision to release information about a confidential investigation into District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.
The Journal took the position that releasing the file was the right decision under the law and something APD was required to do. Stonewalling would only have prompted [an] outcry about flouting the law and a coverup. Under the alternative reality, conduct by the DA that Balderas found to be out of line possibly would have been buried forever. Ultimately, APD should not be faulted for following evidence wherever it leads–even if that is to high places – or for following the state’s IPRA law. 
Read their editorial here. 

Access to a historical mining camp in the Ortiz Mountains south of Santa Fe will be restricted soon.
SFR’s Thomas Ragan reports there’s only one more public trip planned and its already sold out.

Read why here.

The Santa Fe Community College’s planetarium remains closed to the public due to a lack of funding.
Barney Magrath, who has taught astronomy as an adjunct at the college for the last five years, says that’s a shame. Even though the planetarium’s technology, from its construction in the 1980s, is out of date, the facility could still be a great resource and gathering place, Magrath says. But he wasn’t invited to teach classes again next year, and he says that’s in part because he’s been making noise about the planetarium’s closing. “It’s shameful and disgraceful that they can’t come up with funds to keep it open,” he tells SFR. “It just languishes with no plan. They are determined to keep it closed, from my point of view.” 
Julie Ann Grimm has the scoop. 

That’s it for today. But we’ll be back tomorrow. There’s always more news.
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