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Morning Word: FCC Considers Net Neutrality Rules

Right-to-work legislation heads to state Senate

Morning WordThursday, February 26, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Bundle up because there are winter storm advisories and watches across much of New Mexico today and tomorrow. It’s going to be cold, wet and windy, and it looks like another storm is headed down from the Rockies, just in time for the weekend. Santa Fe public schools are on a normal schedule, but check here for other closings and delays. Also, state House lawmakers have approved right-to-work legislation along with an increase in the state’s minimum wage, but don’t get too excited yet, it still has to pass the Senate before going to the governor's office.

It's Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission plans to adopt net neutrality rules today. The details of the FCC's regulation haven't been released, despite objections from two Republican commissioners. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has revealed a broad outline of what he wants the FCC to do:
Prevent broadband providers from blocking any legal Internet content and prohibit them from creating fast lanes for content providers that pay extra for this prioritization.
Read more at ABQ Business First.
 
US Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, wants to make sure federal workers continue to get paid if funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out.
In December, Congress passed a $1.014 trillion funding package that avoided a full government shutdown but left DHS and its more than 240,000 federal employees in limbo with only partial-year funding that expires this Friday, Feb. 27. The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act of 2015 is similar to language passed into law during or following previous government shutdowns. 
Read more at the Los Alamos Daily Post. 

US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-New Mexico, doesn’t want the Albuquerque Police Department to have access to a Department of Defense training center in the future.
The training center, east of Albuquerque in Coyote Canyon, offers a variety of classes for federal agents and the military to train on how to keep nuclear materials safe and secure. It also offers classes that cover topics such as “force on force,” “vehicle ambush,” and “tactical leadership,” according to the training center’s website. 
Lujan Grisham cited APD’s use of force and questions about police militarization as reasons to suspend the training.

Police reporter Ryan Boetel has the details.

Photojournalists are questioning why two City of Albuquerque officials shut down a fired police officer’s personnel hearing because they didn’t want to be “depicted” on video recording. While administrative hearings are quasi-judicial, they are required to follow civil procedures and state law. The New Mexico Open Meetings Act requires government employees make reasonable accommodations for both audio and video recordings.

Independent journalist Charles Arasim has some video before he was shut down. 

While school board members contemplate new contract incentives to retain Superintendent Joel Boyd, people in Fort Worth Texas are questioning if he’s the best choice to lead their district.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

After being suspended for a day for walking out of class to protest PARCC tests, a group of teens want to set up a meeting with Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera.

Joey Peters has the story at SFR.

Las Cruces students are planning to protest the new tests by walking out of class on Monday.

See more at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

Some parents are still trying to figure out if they are legally permitted to opt their children out of the tests.

KRQE has the answer.

The Public Regulation Commission has decided to wait until after lawmakers consider how ridesharing companies – like Lyft and Uber – should be regulated in New Mexico before issuing the companies actual operating permits.

The Associated Press has more. 

After a series of court rulings, New Mexicans are paying more for uninsured motorists insurance, according to Insurance Superintendent Gene Franchini.
In the most recent case, Franchini said, a 2010 state Supreme Court decision allowed people who had an uninsured claim within the previous seven years to reopen their claims and renegotiate the settlements, forcing insurance carriers to pay out around $350 million in additional claims they hadn’t set aside reserves to cover. 
Rosalie Rayburn has the details. 

New Mexico Legislative News: 

  • After weeks of debate, House members voted 37-30 to pass right-to-work legislation – Santa Fe New Mexican. 
  • A majority of states have independent ethics commissions, now New Mexico is one step closer to getting its own – Deborah Baker has more.  
  • Bills to protect children are rolling smoothly through the Legislature – Vik Jolly has a recap.
  • Investigative reporter Larry Barker, following bills that require more health care pricing transparency, reveals some of the hospitals’ secrets – KRQE
  • A measure that would allow beer and wine delivery to people’s home is advancing through committees – Santa Fe New Mexican
  • New Mexico Supreme Court justices are considering whether the City of Albuquerque can ban its employees from serving in the Legislature – Dan McKay reports
  • The Senate has confirmed two more of Gov. Susana Martinez’ cabinet secretaries – Dan Boyd
  • New Mexico In Depth has been tracking lobbyist spending in Santa Fe, now they have a story about how other states have more extensive reporting requirements, including disclosure of which bills they are working on – Michael Sol Warren
  • If teachers can be evaluated and ranked, Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, thinks cabinet secretaries should also be evaluated and scored – Milan Simonich


Lee Zlotoff, the man who created MacGyver, is headed to Santa Fe to open a new publishing house. "It'll be cheaper to find designers and editors in Santa Fe than in San Francisco or New York City, and Santa Fe is a very cosmopolitan town; there's a certain Bohemian cool to it," he said.

Dan Mayfield has more. 

Billy the Kid’s hideout house during the Lincoln County War is for sale.

See more the historic property here.  

More details are emerging from that newsroom fracas at KOB.

ABQ Free Press has the scoop. 

Power Plan Limbo

Opposition to PNM replacement proposal for sources of electricity remains high as decision looms

Local NewsThursday, February 26, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
The Public Service Company of New Mexico’s power replacement plan is still up in the air, and it doesn’t look like anything will be decided before April.

The investor-owned utility wants public regulation commissioners to approve its proposal to acquire another 132 megawatts of coal-generated electricity and to bring nuclear power, which is currently bought on the open market from the Palo Verde plant in Arizona, into its New Mexico rate base.

Environmental groups support PNM's plan to shutter two coal stacks at the San Juan Generating Station as a way to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Haze Program, but they oppose PNM's future reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Ashley Schannauer, an independent hearing examiner for the state Public Regulation Commission, has been considering stakeholder briefs submitted to him on Feb. 16 at the conclusion of three weeks of public hearings. The parties were scheduled to file responses to those briefs this week. After Schannauer issues his recommendation, commissioners have the power to make the final decision. No date is set for that vote.

In the meantime, PNM executives claim that their proposal meets legal requirements and is the most reliable and cost efficient for consumers, but renewable energy groups and other stakeholders disagree and have withdrawn their support for a stipulated agreement between the attorney general’s staff and utility.

Attorneys who wrote PNM’s brief in support of the plan contend that employees investigated a “myriad set of circumstances” and renewable alternatives, but that they “didn’t adequately” meet risk or reliability requirements.

Mariel Nanasi, the executive director for New Energy Economy, a nonprofit renewable energy advocacy group who led the charge against PNM’s proposed power plan, says the proposal included more than $1 billion in mathematical calculation errors.

She thinks the real risk is PNM’s reliance on coal and nuclear-generated power.

“PNM wants PRC commissioners to have ratepayers invest in a plant only operates at 75 percent reliability,” Nanasi tells SFR. “Their predetermined plan, which simply taps their own resources, has nothing to do with the genuine stakeholder process that is required by state law and regulatory process.”

Nanasi tells SFR, in her view, the current proposal “shifts the burden of PNM’s toxic assets from shareholders to ratepayers.”

Before Schannauer finalizes his reports, Nanasi wants him to strike testimony from PRC Bureau Chief Brunno Carrara “because he illegally owned stock in PNM at the same he was offering agency staff support for the plan.”

Nan Winter, an attorney representing the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility District, writes in a brief that the district withdrew its original support for the stipulated agreement after discovering significant changes and “mistakes.”

“Unfortunately, in this case, should the stipulating parties prevail in getting Commission approval of the Stipulation, all New Mexico ratepayers will bear the risks of these changed circumstances,” writes Winter, urging the commission to reject the plan.

If the PNM’s plan is rejected, it's not clear what the next move would be. Gerard Ortiz, the company's vice president of regulatory affairs, told SFR late last year that rejection or modification of the proposal would lead PNM to " evaluate our options in light of the final order."

Western Resources, Renewable Energy Industries Association, and New Mexico Independent Power Producers have backed out of the Oct. 14, 2014 stipulated agreement, however, it looks like PNM can still count on support from the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers and PRC’s staff.

The New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers group includes Intel. The semiconductor company is the only company in PNM's 30-megawatt rate classification category. At the same time PNM has asked commissioners to consider raising consumer rates by 16 percent, Intel's own rates could be decreased by close to 1.5 percent.

PNM declined multiple requests from SFR to comment on Intel's rate reduction or to answer questions about whether it's tied to Intel's support of the utility's power replacement plan.

Read for yourself. Below, you'll find documents submitted to the PRC's independent hearing officer.

Protesting the PARCC

Suspended teens want meeting with state officals about the standardized test

Local NewsWednesday, February 25, 2015 by Joey Peters

A dozen Santa Fe High School stood in front of the state Public Education Department today, calling for a meeting with Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera over testing that they say goes too far.

Protests also occurred on Monday and Tuesday, with students walking out of local high schools to express opposition to the PARCC test, a standardized exam that replaces the state's flagship Standards Based Assessment (SBA) test this year. 

Don Jaramillo, a 17-year-old junior at Santa Fe High School, says he and the other students who walked out this morning to protest were suspended for the rest of the day. So they came downtown. 

"If we're going to get suspended, we're going to go to the capitol," says Jaramillo, pictured left. 

Jaramillo says he and his classmates want to express their concerns about the PARCC test. Part of his opposition relates to PARCC's replacement of the SBA.

"We've been taught to do the SBA since third grade," he says. "So we've been practicing our whole life."

In contrast, Jaramillo says specific training for PARCC only began this week. The test, which will take an estimated nine hours to complete over multiple weeks, is also intended to be taken completely on computers. Jaramillo says a practice math test he took for PARCC on a computer recently didn't show him his score. 

He also says the test is taking time from learning in the classroom. 

PARCC's ties to New Mexico run deep. A federally consortium of 14 states, PARCC is an acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers. Each state belonging to the consortium is essentially opted into using the PARCC assessment as its standardized test. 

Last year, the state Public Education Department took on the task of serving as the fiscal agent for a contract to write and administer the test in the entire consortium. The state awarded the contract to education giant corporation Pearson, and critics immediately questioned whether the contract was rigged. A lawsuit over the matter is pending in Santa Fe District Court (for more on this, read here). 

Though a meeting with Skandera didn't seem likely on Wednesday, the students did talk with Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd yesterday.

"We got some answers from him," Jaramillo says, "but we don't know if he supports us because he's leaving."

Boyd was named the lone finalist earlier this month for a more lucrative superintendent position in Fort Worth. He hasn't publicly accepted the job yet. 

Students say a big protest, involving both Santa Fe High School and Capital High School, is planned for Friday. 

Morning Word: Homeland Security Budget Held Hostage

State budget proposal passes the House

Morning WordWednesday, February 25, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Unless federal lawmakers come up with a solution to fund the US Department of Homeland Security in the next day, government workers, including hundreds in New Mexico, face furloughs. At least there's fresh powder on the ski slopes. That, plus details on how state House members finally passed a big state budget proposal.

It's Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The debate over funding the Department of Homeland Security is ramping up as lawmakers near a deadline tomorrow to work through the gridlock, essentially a futile Republican effort to undercut President Barack Obama’s action to reform immigration policy last fall. The impact in New Mexico could be big if no budget is passed. For example, federal law enforcement cadets training in Artesia could be sent home without paychecks if Congress fails to pass a budget by the end of the week.
DHS employees deemed “essential,” such as Border Patrol officers, Transportation Security Administration agents and Secret Service employees, would still be required to come to work under law, but would not be paid unless Congress agreed to make the U.S. Treasury Department cut checks retroactively. 
At the end of previous government shutdowns, federal workers have been issued back pay.

Michael Coleman has details. 

The New Mexico Environment Department wants a decades worth of records from Los Alamos National Laboratory to determine how it manages nuclear waste.
The new demand calls into question whether the lab has withheld information from environmental regulators investigating its role in a radiation leak last year, and whether a threat of another event lurks in more drums of waste packaged at Los Alamos that may have been mislabeled.


Read Patrick Malone’s story here. 

To make travel in New Mexico safer, a national transportation company has recommended some big road improvement projects.
The report makes recommendations for bridge construction, highway remodeling and improvements to transportation centers. The No. 1 recommendation from the report was to remodel US 82 in Eddy and Lea Counties into a four-lane highway. 
See the Top 25 at ABQ Business First. 

WildEarth Guardians has filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers and US Fish and Wildlife Services’ $287-million levee project along the Rio Grande.
The group claims the planned construction of dozens of miles of levees from the San Acacia Dam south to the Elephant Butte Reservoir would have a negative effect on the Rio Grande silvery minnow and other endangered species. 
Associated Press reporter Susan Montoya Bryan has details.  

Santa Fe Public School board members who want to retain Superintendent John Boyd are getting creative. They’re considering contract revisions to keep Boyd here after he was named a finalist to become the new school boss in Fort Worth, Texas.

Reporter TS Lang has the story. 

Journalist Joey Peters reports New Mexico officials may have impeded efforts to get more uninsured people signed up for the state’s health care exchange.
Last fall, Gov. Susana Martinez and state Human Services Department Secretary Sidonie Squier wrote letters approving the state exchange’s application for a $97.9 million federal grant for the next three years. Though their letters endorsed the effort, they also used tongue-in-cheek language questioning the very purpose of the federal dollars they were seeking. 
Read “Obamacareless” at SFR. 

Santa Fe County Commissioners are considering a one-eighth of one percent increase in the gross receipts tax. The money may be needed to replace money taken back from the governor and state legislature.
County Manager Katherine Miller said the new revenue initially would be used primarily to finance the redevelopment of the old judicial building on Catron Street downtown into a county administration building, as well as other county facility renovations and building maintenance. 
Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

The Solid Waste Management Agency in Santa Fe County is considering hauling its recyclables out of town.

Read why at SFR. 

A woman who admits she defrauded St. Vincent Regional Hospital in Santa Fe was sentenced to 21 years in prison, but likely won’t see a day behind bars. Lorretta Mares, who pled guilty to helping embezzle $3.1 million in 2013, must complete five years of supervised probation.

Reporter Phaedra Haywood has the story. 

Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed First Judicial District Judge Jennifer Attrep to fill a vacancy on the bench created by the non-retention of Judge Sheri Raphaelson.

Read it at the Los Alamos Daily Post. 

Residents in Santa Teresa may have to wait until next year to vote on incorporation.

Details at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 


New Mexico Legislative News:

  • After a long debate on the House floor, a $6.2-million budget proposal is headed to the Senate – New Mexico Political Report
  • Data journalist Sandra Fish reports lobbyists have spent $231,000 halfway through the session – New Mexico In Depth. 
  • A bipartisan bill that would make hospital service pricing information more transparent in headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee – Gwyneth Doland on KUNM.
  • A modified version of Kendra’s Law, that would require some mentally-ill patients to seek treatment, has passed the Senate – Albuquerque Journal
  • Motorcyclists won’t be required to wear helmets in New Mexico anytime soon – New Mexico Political Report. 
  • Lawmakers are considering a new tribal gaming compact that would allow casinos to offer $10,000 credit limits to high rollers – ABQ Journal. 

A fight between two of New Mexico’s best known television journalists may have been blown out of portion. While KOB Anchor Tom Joles is at home “cooling off” after a shouting match with Stuart Dyson, the rumor that punches were thrown is being denied by station Manager Mike Burgess.

Read more at the ABQ Journal. 

#JeSuisArtShow

New art exhibit speaks volumes

PicksWednesday, February 25, 2015 by Enrique Limón

For artist Issa Nyaphaga, the Paris attacks of Jan. 7 hit close to home.

“I was a cartoonist in exile in Paris from 1996 to 2006, and the first year I got there, I was a contributor for Charlie Hebdo,” the globally inspired cartoonist and activist says.

His political cartoons had gotten him in hot water in his native Cameroon, and so Nyaphaga forged a new life after asylum was granted.

Still with a knot on his throat, he recalls the legacy of editor Stéphane Charbonnier and his slain staff. “I knew them all. It was like an earthquake in my life,” Nyaphaga says.

“I was devastated,” he continues. “Because, you know, cartoonists are people who have very, very good hearts. They want to change the world, and they only use paper and ink to do that.”

Channeling his grief and hope for political change, the now Santa Fe-based artist unveils Je Suis Artoonist, 45 pieces strong, this Friday at the CCA.

“The public opinion doesn’t take cartoonists seriously,” he says of the medium. “You can fill an entire speech with just one image. It’s the first thing people see in newspapers—your work.”

Surpassing “the joker” role and facing threats head-on, he says, is what has translated the artform into a “very important critical work.”

He finalizes, “In the democracy process, cartoons are really the medium that is critical. It can change civilization.”


Je Suis Artoonist
5-7 pm Friday, Feb. 27
CCA Cinematheque Lobby
1050 Old Pecos Trail,
982-1338


Greenhouse

News BriefsTuesday, February 24, 2015 by Joey Peters

Despite the long odds, two bills to reform New Mexico marijuana laws are making progress in the state Senate.

While a bill from Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, to tax and regulate marijuana died a lopsided death in the state House of Representatives earlier this month, a similar measure by state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Bernalillo, quietly passed the Senate Rules Committee the following week.

The narrow approval of Ortiz y Pino’s bill, a constitutional amendment that would allow statewide voters to approve legalization or not, marks the first time any marijuana legalization bill has passed a committee in the Roundhouse. The bill passed committee on a 5-4 mostly party-line vote, with state Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Cibola, voting no, and state Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Chaves, not present.

The bill now sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Another proposal that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession cleared the Senate Public Affairs Committee last week on a 4-2 party-line vote. The bill would reduce the charge of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana from a petty misdemeanor on the first offense to a fine of $50. All subsequent offenses would be considered petty misdemeanors and a felony for possessing more than eight ounces.

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Doña Ana, now sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.

Two bills to allow industrial hemp use are also making traction in both chambers. In the upper chamber, a bill by state Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, passed the Senate Conservation Committee unanimously but without recommendation. A similar bill in the lower chamber by state Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Bernalillo, got a warm reception in the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee but has not yet been acted on.


Charter Watch

Insiders say state didn’t scrutinize ABQ school even though FBI did

Local NewsWednesday, February 25, 2015 by Joey Peters

One hallmark of the leadership of newly confirmed state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera is her open embrace of charter schools.

Under Skandera’s Public Education Department, more than 80 charter schools are currently overseen directly under the state and not local school districts. They include Santa Fe’s own Turquoise Trail Charter School, Tierra Encantada Charter School and The MASTERS Program Early College Charter School.

Likewise, Skandera has approved previously rejected charters for schools like the Santa Fe-based New Mexico Connections Academy, whose students do most learning online.

Yet during debate of her confirmation in the Roundhouse last week, some senators raised concerns indicating maybe that trend is because the state’s oversight gives charters too much freedom. One lawmaker cited email exchanges about PED’s oversight of Southwest Secondary Learning Centers, a coalition of three charter schools in Albuquerque that were raided last summer by the FBI and against which an investigation is still pending.

Officials raised questions that the centers’ former head administrator was personally siphoning money from the schools to his private businesses. A recent audit found that two schools paid $1.1 million in leases to an aircraft company owned by Scott Glasrud, who served as the schools’ head administrator until he resigned shortly after the FBI raid. Glasrud is also co-owner of a company that leases a building for classroom use to Southwest Secondary Learning Centers.

In December, PED Deputy Secretary Paul Aguilar pointed the finger at his department’s contracted auditor for missing the problems in its 2013 audit of the charter schools.

But documents reveal that PED employees were looking into problems with the charter school at least one year before the FBI raid. A former agency investigator says, however, that PED sidelined a full probe.

“I was asked to look at SSLC some time ago…and then told there was nothing to look at—move along,” Brenda Mares wrote to the State Auditor’s Office in January 2014. “I think there was an issue about whether the guy is profiting from the charter school. Still don’t know, because I was pulled off.”

PED spokeswoman Ellen Hur tells SFR this week that Mares was employed in the Professional Licensure Bureau and therefore “her duties were limited to investigating complaints in that arena.”

“She is not an auditor or financial investigator,” Hur says.

Mares, who now works in the state Regulation and Licensing Department, referred questions to her attorney, who didn’t return SFR’s phone calls before press time.

In mid-2013, PED’s Charter School Division Director Tony Gerlicz served as its director and performed a site visit. He tells SFR that at the time, concerns of impropriety at SSLC had already long been raised.

“That charter school had an excellent reputation,” says Gerlicz, who is now principal of Santa Fe’s Mandela International Magnet School. Yet, Gerlicz was troubled by what he called some of the schools’ “operations.”

After the visit, Gerlicz posed a few questions in a letter to Glasrud. First, he raised concerns about the building lease, noting that while at first it was reasonable to use the building, by now, the school should have a facility that does not present a “possible conflict of interest.”

The conflict, he wrote, is “not only a possible serious violation but causes damage to the charter movement.”

The schools’ attorney Patty Matthews responded that the company Glasrud co-owns, Southwest Educational Consultants, does not actually own the building but merely “acts as a pass through entity” and sublets it to the school. Matthews went on to write that Glasrud had disclosed his ties to the firm to the SSLC’s governing board.

She then invited PED to look at the school’s previous audits as well as “perhaps a close look at the motivation of those who keep this issue in the spotlight.”

The fact that Gerlicz was addressing Matthews about the school is indeed incestuous—Matthews served as PED’s head of the charter schools division before Gerlicz took the job.

SSLC’s director of operations, Leslie Lujan, also came directly from PED in 2012 after seven years as a senior budget analyst at the education department.

To Public Education Commissioner Jeff Carr, the many connections raise red flags. The independently elected commission asked the PED to look into the charter school’s conflicts in 2012, but Carr says the department didn’t properly act.

“They looked into it and said everything was fine,” Carr says.

Hur rejects that notion, maintaining that PED first referred allegations to the state auditor in October 2012.

Former State Auditor Hector Balderas, who is now attorney general, began pressuring PED to act on the charter school last August. Despite all the controversy, the education commission still renewed SSLC’s charter for another three years at the recommendation of PED last December. Just one commissioner, Carr, voted no.


Clean Sweep

Regional waste agency wants to close local transfer station

Local NewsWednesday, February 25, 2015 by Justin Horwath

Inside a small boardroom in the Santa Fe County administrative building on the evening of Feb. 19, the Solid Waste Management Agency set into motion sweeping changes to Santa Fe’s recycling program.

This week, the agency that oversees both the recycling center and landfill here expects to finish writing a bid to seek a facility outside Santa Fe where the joint city/county agency can ship recyclables. The new contract would significantly shift the mission of the agency—known by a pronunciation of its acronym as SWaMA—and the Buckman Road Recycling & Transfer Station that it oversees. Officials say they would then only use the outdated sorting machinery at the local recycling center as a backup to sift through the material.

Cost savings and increasing the dismal countywide recycling rate are the goals behind the decision, which could become effective as soon as this summer, officials say.

“The key is cost,” SWaMA’s director, Randall Kippenbrock, told the board comprised of county commissioners and city councilors. “We cannot generate enough revenue to cover our costs.”

"We cannot generate enough revenue to cover our costs."

The move could mean that Santa Fe finally begins employing a single-stream recycling system. That will depend partly on how the request for proposals turns out and also what the city decides to do.

City officials have long considered proposals to alter the current system that requires hauling two plastic boxes to the curb each week, one for glass and one for everything else.

Under one recent idea, residents would place all their recyclables into one garbage-sized rolling bin—save glass, which would be dropped off at city-operated sites or picked up by private haulers at the cost of the customer.

But forcing residents to drop off glass or to pay a private hauler to pick it up might continue to hamper Santa Fe’s recycling rate, which is measured by the tons of waste diverted from landfills to reuse. Glass is one of the heaviest recyclables collected.

Cities that have gone to full single-stream recycling systems have seen dramatic increases in recycling rates. Backers say that’s because single-stream makes it easier on residents by relieving the burden of sorting recyclables

District 2 Councilor Joseph Maestas, a SWaMA board member, interjected as the board considered a proposal to adopt recommendations made by a private consulting firm in a December report.

“What are we currently diverting right now in terms of recyclables?” he said.

Kippenbrock responded that it’s still “under 10 percent.”

“How much can we realize,” Maestas asked, if Santa Fe ships its recyclables to another facility with infrastructure in place to sort single-stream?

Kippenbrock predicted the rate could increase to between 18 and 20 percent the first year.

“I could be wrong,” on the exact figure, he added, but “there’ll definitely be an increase.”

Kippenbrock also said the change would mean the city could begin collecting waxed cardboard and those nettlesome Nos. 3 to 7 plastics, whose resin content makes them an unattractive product for manufacturers. Currently, SWaMA doesn’t accept either.

The decision comes after a yearslong, systemwide audit of the effectiveness of how the city and county collects and recycles waste. Auditors with a private firm, Leidos, examined the costs of the city and county programs from the curbside up and found that SWaMA won’t have the money it takes to run the current waste collection and diversion programs without changes to them.

Auditors, for example, projected SWaMA will “significantly under-recover costs” in the 2015 fiscal year based on estimates of operating costs, expected revenue estimated to come from the sale of recyclables and the fees it charges for collecting hazardous waste, electronic waste and green waste.

The landfill side of the agency, which charges tipping fees to customers like the city that dump waste at the Caja del Rio Landfill, will collect $1.4 million in profits in the 2015 fiscal year from those fees, auditors found. Meanwhile, the recycling side of the operation will lose some $2 million, resulting in the $622,000 net loss.

By 2018, under current conditions, that loss is expected to swell to $3.8 million, auditors estimated, with the recycling side of the operation remaining the agency’s problem child.

BuRRT for years has struggled to make revenue from the sale of recyclable material it collects. The problem starts at the curbsides of Santa Fe’s famously eco-friendly residents: Auditors found that just over half of the city’s recycling customers set out recycling bins on any given route, 25 percent lower than similarly sized cities. Santa Fe still diverts less than 10 percent of its waste stream to recycling or reuse, pulling down the statewide average, which is 16 percent.

Nationally in 2012, note auditors, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans produced 251 million tons of trash, recycling 65 million tons of it while composting another 21 million tons, for a recycling rate of 34.5 percent.

As for the recyclables the agency does collect, it struggles to clean, sort and sell them. In this isolated region, there’s a lack of secondary markets for products like glass and those pesky 3 to 7 plastics. BuRRT’s machinery is outdated, unable to sort even glass, which must be pulverized in a glass crusher. And although that glass is collected, it’s not going anywhere. Last summer, a 500-ton mound of crushed glass sat unused outside the facility.

Based on all those conclusions, auditors estimate that the agency could save up to $200,000 by contracting out recycling services—essentially paying someone to haul recyclables to a larger material recovery facility such as one in Albuquerque.

Officials are eager to get the message out.

“Once we get the contract in place for third-party processing and/or transportation, then we’ll be able to ramp up our advertis[ing], media awareness,” said Kippenbrock, “that we do accept all of this.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the board voted to increase tipping fees.

7 Days

02.25.15

7 DaysTuesday, February 24, 2015 by SFR
1

SF PLAN TO BAN MINIS GAINS TRACTION

Council to drivers: Just buy a bigger bottle, chug it and throw it out the window.

2

LOS LUNAS WOMAN HOLDS WORLD RECORD ON SLINKYS

Meanwhile, a local man is going for the record on a collection of minis before they’re banned.

3

BIKERS RALLY AGAINST HELMET LAW

Let’s just do this Darwin’s way.

4

SFR LIVE-TWEETS THE OSCARS

Reading the feed turns out to be more fun that actually watching the show.

5

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL WORKS TO SPEED UP GAMES

We wish the state Legislature would do the same thing for lawmaking.

6

NEW MEXISTAN REPLACES TAMALEWOOD AS STATE NICKNAME

Both beat the entrapment moniker. We’ll give them that.

7

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WALK OUT OVER STANDARDIZED TESTS

District’s backup plan calls for substitution of Candy Crush scores to gauge success.

Street View

02.25.15

Street ViewWednesday, February 25, 2015 by SFR
Seen on Cerrillos Road: Get your Jesus cheap, just in time for Lent.

Send your shots to streetview@sfreporter.com or share with #SFRStreetview for a chance to win free movie passes to the CCA Cinematheque.

Morning Word: FCC Considers Net Neutrality Rules
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