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Too Much Prosecution?

Koch brothers, defense attorneys: What’s on New Mexicans’ minds matters

Local NewsFriday, February 5, 2016 by New Mexico In Depth

A politically disparate, influential group of thought-heavyweights has its eye on New Mexico for a clampdown on government prosecutions of people for crimes they didn’t know they’d committed.

Last week, the Charles Koch Institute and the Rio Grande Foundation, New Mexico’s libertarian think tank, co-sponsored a discussion in Albuquerque about what they call “over-criminalization.” At their side was the executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Kicking off the event, Indy car racing legend and New Mexico icon Bobby Unser described in florid detail his tangle with the federal government over an obscure law it used to charge him 20 years ago. As Unser explained it, he survived a harrowing trek through the mountains in blizzard conditions, only to be slapped with a fine once he emerged.

Politics have not made strange bedfellows of the Koch brothers, billionaire standard bearers for conservative and corporate America, and the criminal defense lawyers association, a traditionally liberal organization.

Rather, criminal justice reform has.

Increasingly, the left-right divide is vanishing on topics from mandatory minimum sentences to civil asset forfeiture to heavy-handed police tactics.

The issue on the stage at the Hotel Albuquerque last week: “mens rea reform,” also known as “intent reform.”

Mens rea” means “guilty mind,” and it is the immediate sibling of actus reus, or “guilty act.” Together, as any first-year law student could attest, they form the basis of what the government is supposed to prove to convict someone of a crime: that a defendant committed an illegal act, and that the defendant intended to do so.

The problem, according to the forum’s participants: Policymakers have fatted the statute books with laws long on the act, but short on the mind. Legislators have passed too many laws without a clear standard of intent, they say.

In 2010, the criminal defense lawyers group and the conservative Heritage Foundation coauthored a report on what they called the erosion of intent requirements in federal law.

Panelists at last week’s forum pointed out that there are more than 4,400 federal laws on the books and hundreds more enshrined in New Mexico statutes. They asked: Would it be reasonable for citizens to know them all? And would it be reasonable for the government to prosecute people under a law they didn’t know existed — let alone intended to break?

Their short answer is no, it is not reasonable. And New Mexico could be the perfect place for ensuring mens rea requirements are specified in criminal law.

After all, this is a state with a tough-on-crime former prosecutor for a governor who, to the surprise of many, signed into law last year one of the nation’s most sweeping sets of restrictions on the practice of law enforcement confiscating people’s property prior to conviction.

The Charles Koch Institute’s Vikrant Reddy said in a telephone interview that he believes Gov. Susana Martinez’s willingness to move forward on civil asset forfeiture reform—and the state’s “thoughtful, serious” approach to complex criminal justice issues—may signal an opening for mens rea changes here as well.

Martinez has been linked to the Kochs before. In 2013, she attended a secret confab of wealthy donors hosted by the Koch brothers at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort in Bernalillo. And between 2010 and 2014, Koch Industries donated more than $20,000 to her political campaigns.

About 75 people attended the Albuquerque event. The assemblage included local lawyers whose political bents range from dyed-in-the-wool libertarian to left of Bernie Sanders. There were shaggy-haired hipsters in jeans and tweed jackets, other folks in three-piece suits. There were people in their 70s or 80s. A girl of 9 or 10 attended with her parents. Seated near the center of the room was a fellow with a gray, thinning ponytail who wore a black cowboy hat, a bowler’s shirt emblazoned with the logo of a Rio Rancho Masonic lodge and an open-carry pistol on his hip.

The panelists told the crowd that change in New Mexico might mirror legislation passed in Ohio in 2014. The Buckeye State’s law requires legislators to include in newly created laws a base level of intent that the government must prove to convict someone. The mens rea law in Ohio also requires more precision from the state for convictions under existing laws as well.

“The intent requirement in criminal statute is the moral anchor in our law,” Norman Reimer, executive director of the NACDL, said at the forum. “Intent makes criminal law fair and reasonable.”

Before any of that, Unser took the stage. He regaled the crowd in a gravelly tone scraped from the pits of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his oft-told tale of big government run amok.

Twenty years ago at Christmastime, Unser and a friend were stranded in the South San Juan Wilderness near the New Mexico-Colorado border, after their snowmobiles broke down during a blizzard. It took the pair two grueling days to hike out of the wilderness. Unser mentioned snow caves, tissue paper, matches, mothballs and the kicking down of a barn door in a florid Q and A with Reddy that was more A than Q.

After his escape from the would-be frozen death sentence, Unser was cited for violating the federal Wilderness Act by driving a snowmobile into a wilderness area. The infraction carried a $75 fine.

There were no signposts marking the wilderness area. There were white-out conditions besides, and Unser said he didn’t know snowmobiling in the South San Juan was illegal.

Mens rea—I don’t know what that is,” he said to a roomful of approving nods. “All I know is I had no intention of doing something wrong. My intention was to stay alive.”

Later, his intention was to fight the federal government, which he did in US District Court in Denver. His trial there coincided with that of Timothy McVeigh, who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Unser lost. And he lost again on appeal. But his story lent a personal feel to the forum.

Skepticism abides of the Koch brothers’ increasingly public push for criminal justice reform. Just last week, journalist Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker on whether it is part of a skillful rebranding campaign meant to distance the brothers from their dark-money, puppet master image.

Mens rea reform is not without controversy, either. It appears to be a potential sticking point in the national criminal justice reform debate, and its inclusion could derail bipartisan efforts in Congress to amend sentencing laws and other aspects of the system.

Critics have wondered aloud whether bolstering intent requirements would open the door for corporations to claim ignorance of the law or benign motives and thus avoid liability for criminal acts. Environmental crimes often come to mind for those suspicious of the real intent behind “intent reform.”

The panelists at last week’s forum in Albuquerque seemed aware of the criticism. They told horror stories of people in Florida facing charges for contraband that didn’t belong to them in the trunks of rental cars. And they gave Unser 45 minutes to describe his tangle with the feds over the obscure law they charged him with breaking.

CKI’s Reddy told New Mexico In Depth that he understands the concerns about loosening restrictions on corporate crime. But disagreeing with mens rea reform efforts “is not the way to address the corporate malfeasance they’re concerned about.”

Further, he said there’s plenty in mens rea reform for average New Mexicans. Reddy gave the hypothetical example of someone whose boat leaks oil into a river. Was the boater purposefully polluting the river? Was it a reckless act, an act of negligence? Or was it a freak accident? Laws that don’t differentiate between levels of intent can criminalize behavior that would not otherwise rise to the level of a crime.

“Those levels matter,” he said. “It’s a mistake to say it’s either [a crime] or [it’s not]. Mens rea protections have for a thousand years been protections for defendants, all defendants. … Anyone in the US could be a defendant, especially now, because there are so many laws.”

Whether New Mexico will become the next battleground for stricter intent requirements remains to be seen. The Rio Grande Foundation’s Paul Gessing said he hopes to build interest and support for mens rea reform this year and potentially put it before the Legislature in 2017.

This story by Jeff Proctor was published by New Mexico In Depth as part of its "Justice Project."  

This Weekend

Guitar and Art history

Weekend PicksFriday, February 5, 2016 by SFR

Medieval to Metal: The Art and Evolution of the Guitar

Examining the craftsmanship, design and history of the coolest instrument ever around. Sorry, bassists—it's just the truth. Anyway, this is the free reception.

More Info >>

Raylets

Not the backup group for Ray Charles; this is a group show of contemporary art by younger practitioners from Santa Fe and elsewhere.

More Info >>


The Bella Show with Bella Gigante and Melanie Moore

Beloved local drag queen Bella Gigante sings (and we actually mean she sings, not lip-syncs) pop, disco, blues and more. And DJ Melanie Moore spins dance jams for the after-party.

More Info >>

Garo Antreasian

A new exhibit titled Systematic Abstraction featuring paintings and wood constructions.

More Info >>


Meditation Instruction

Learn about method and etiquette.

More Info >>

Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival: Morganthau

Learn about three generations of Morganthaus, from the US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morganthau Sr., Roosevelt's secretary of the treasury, Henry Morganthau Jr., and New York County DA Robert M Morganthau.

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: Rep. Espinoza Faces Ethics Complaint

Democratic Party says she used government resources to promote campaign for secretary of state

Morning WordFriday, February 5, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Espinoza Faces Ethics Complaint
The Democratic Party of New Mexico has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, for directing radio show listeners to visit her legislative website to get more information on her campaign for secretary of state.
“Official government resources cannot and must not be used for campaigning. Period,” [Party Chair Debra] Haaland said. “It violates the law and it violates the public’s trust. We are calling on Secretary of State Brad Winter to fully investigate Rep. Espinoza’s conduct in order to ensure that voters know that the system works and they can trust their elected representatives.”

Secret Budget Talks
NM lawmakers are busy talking about the state budget, but their secret, behind-closed-door meetings trouble open government advocates, who believe the public’s business should be, well, discussed publicly. The New Mexico House plans to consider the $6.3 billion state budget this Saturday.

Supplemental Funding
US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, is supporting emergency funding legislation to address the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic that is devastating communities in New Mexico and across the country.
"We urgently need more resources for better prevention, treatment, recovery, and enforcement programs specifically designed to help people struggling with addiction and give local communities the tools they need to tackle this issue head on. Addiction is a disease that can happen to anyone, and it's a cycle that we've seen too frequently in New Mexico.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee is considering adding up to $600 million for supplemental funding for drug prevention and treatment programs. A state proposal to require the New Mexico Department of Health to post overdose prevention information online and require some insurance providers to offer coverage for prescription opioids that make it more difficult to overdose is also advancing in the state legislature. 

Sanchez-Gagne Prepares DA Campaign
Phaedra Haywood over at the New Mexican reports, “Maria Sanchez-Gagne of Santa Fe, former director of the Border Violence Division of the state Attorney General’s Office, announced today that she will be a Democratic candidate for district attorney for the 1st Judicial District, which includes Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties.”

Repeat Offender Quickly Released
Less than 24 hours after Albuquerque police officers arrested and jailed repeat offender Rufus Phelps for being a felon in possession of a firearm while having an active warrant for another firearms charge, he is out of jail again.

Nuclear Ban Treaty
Michael Coleman reports, “Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, is in New Mexico this week as part of an Obama administration push for ratification the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.” 

More Legislative News

Infrastructure's Real Costs 
A new report reveals that deteriorating roads and bridges cost New Mexicans $1.9 billion a year. But that report is being disputed by state transportation officials.

Transmission Line Project Gets Important Approval
The SunZia Southwest transmission line project won regulatory approval in Arizona, but it still needs a green light from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. The group is still negotiating with the NM State Land Office for right-of-way leases on state trust lands in the Bureau of Land Management’s preferred route.

Concussion Protection Bill
Ahead of Super Bowl 50, Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, promotes a bill to protect young athletes from dangerous concussions.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy the weekend and the big game on Sunday.

Rollin’ on the Dead River

A tense literary thriller from local filmmaker

YayThursday, February 4, 2016 by Brianna Stallings

Write what you know. Never meet your heroes. Truth is stranger than fiction. There are two sides to every story. These ideas and more are at the heart of Dead River, a tense literary thriller written and directed by Santa Fe filmmaker Jason DeBoer. The movie was shot almost entirely in the Santa Fe area, over the course of 12 days. The whole production took just seven months from start to finish. DeBoer was nominated for Best Director and Talented New Director at the Madrid International Film Festival, and Dead River won Best New Mexico Film at the Albuquerque Film Festival.

Dead River tells the tale of Grant Bingham (Morse Bicknell), an English professor with a toddler he ignores, a resentful wife (Lora Martinez-Cunningham) starving for family help and intellectual stimulation, and a dean chanting “Publish or perish!” at his heels. Bingham’s chosen subject matter is crime writer and crotchety recluse Luther Nash (Eb Lottimer). Bingham wants to write a biography; Nash wants to be left alone. Bingham and his wife soon learn that some stones are better left unturned, and that when a talented stranger tells you to leave well enough alone, maybe you should listen. Along the way, there’s also the publisher (Victor Talmadge), who knows the author just well enough to have a few moral qualms about making money off of his angst, and the isolated friend (Staci Robbins), who’s seen Nash’s secret side.

Although the film has a direct and linear narrative, it’s presented in chapters, opening and closing with pauses and fades to black. Dead River clocks in at just 70 minutes, but the film is densely packed with crackling dialog, breathtaking panoramic cinematography (courtesy of Matt Wilson) and a twanging, haunting score by Tim Foljahn. The tension of the climax rolls in a little too quickly in comparison to the rest of the film’s flow, and the sudden resolution sees us abandon some characters mid-moment. Still, Dead River strikes a healthy balance between the writing/academic world, and the world of being human, both of which have their own perils and demands.

Jean Cocteau Cinema

NR

70 min.

Friday, Feb. 5 - Thursday, Feb. 11; DeBoer will host director Q&As after the Feb. 5 and 6 showings.

 


The Fork

The Fork: Fat Tuesday and Monkey Worship

The ForkThursday, February 4, 2016 by Rob DeWalt

Happy Thursday, Fork followers! Santa Fe is gearing up for Mardi Gras on Tuesday, Feb. 9, and one local restaurant is in it to win it with a fine-looking four-course dinner. Feb. 8 marks the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, and Santa Fe Culinary Academy is celebrating early with a pop-up dinner in its student restaurant. Also, one local restaurant is encouraging Santa Feans to buy local with a new discount initiative aimed at local shops and restaurants.

Monkey Business

Chinese New Year is Feb. 8, but at 6:15 pm on Thursday, Feb. 4, Santa Fe Culinary Academy gets its Year of the Monkey groove on early with a four-course dinner in its student-run restaurant in Plaza Mercado. Celebrate with Szechuan-style egg rolls, duck consomme prepared hot and sour style, steamed pork buns and green tea ice cream with a fortune tuile (a delicate French cookie). Dinner is $45 per person (plus tax and tip), and beer and wine will be available for purchase. And do please make a reservation.

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

If you’re looking for somewhere to be on Mardi Gras for dinner, you might not have to look any further. At 6:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 9, Loyal Hound pub and restaurant is serving up its Fat Tuesday Supper Club dinner, with beer pairings from Louisiana brewer Abita (sold separately). Chow down on baked oysters with chorizo butter, fried chicken and grits with redeye gravy, shrimp and sausage pie and paczki, a classic filled Polish doughnut. The community-seating supper is $45 per person (plus tax and tip), and reservations (471-0440) are required.

Join the Rebel Alliance

Dr. Field Goods Kitchen chef/owner Josh Gerwin and his manager, Tahirih Bolton, are daring you to up your buy-local game with Gerwin’s newest project: the Santa Fe Buy Local Alliance. Here’s how it works: Locally owned and operated businesses join the alliance, and patrons who shop or dine there get a 10 percent discount when they show their receipt to any other alliance member. The project is just getting off the ground, but member businesses already include Dr. Field Goods Kitchen, Barrio Brinery, Cheesemongers of Santa Fe, Museum Hill Café, Railyard Fitness and Amigo Tire & Auto. Interested in joining? Email SantaFeBuyLocalAlliance@gmail.com

Week-In, Week-Out

New Mexico Restaurant Week is almost here. The Santa Fe event runs Feb. 21-28. Almost 50 local restaurants are participating, from fine-dining favorites like Restaurant Martín and radish & rye to more casual joints like Jambo Café and Jinja Bar & Bistro. But dining out isn’t the only thing to do. Special events this year include a happy-hour mezcal class at Sazón, a sake-pairing class at Shohko Café and more. Taos Restaurant Week runs Feb. 28- March 6, and Albuquerque Restaurant Week runs March 6-13. If you want to see what’s on the menu in Santa Fe, just click on a restaurant on the Restaurant Week website.

Mixx It Up

Hungry? Heading to Lobo country but want to try something new? No problem. Albuquerque welcomes Mixx, a new full-service taco bar on the west side of downtown. Beer and wine are coming to the joint soon. More ABQ food news in the link.

Get Outta Town, and Eat Chocolate

Sick and tired of cold weather? Perhaps a trip to Silver City for the 17th Annual Chocolate Fantasia on Saturday, Feb. 6, is the ticket. The event, in which proceeds benefit programming for the Mimbres Region Arts Council, is a casual, strolling affair that encourages silly dress and dancing. $25 gets you 20 chocolates, and that isn’t such a bad deal for supporting the arts.

Take It to The Bridge

Santa Fe Brewing Co, has undergone some tremendous transformations over the past few years, and for fans of live music, 2016 is going to be a year to keep your eyeballs peeled to the SFBC website. Renovations are underway at the old Santa Fe Sol performance space and restaurant (which SFBC owns), and owners hope to begin holding live concerts in March at the fresh venue, called The Bridge. And there will be food trucks!

Beer Me, Up-High

Ski Santa Fe is holding its Ski Santa Fe Brewski event at the ski area’s Totemoff’s mid-mountain bar on Saturday, Feb. 20. Six breweries are participating. An $18 ticket gets you a special silicone pint glass, three free samples and a free pint. Lift tickets are not required to attend this event. You can pre-purchase tickets via the Ski Santa Fe ticket office or by calling 954-3680. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Waste Not, Want Not

There's been a lot of talk recently about trying to combat food waste, and it's a long time coming. Some statistics put American food waste at nearly 50 percent, which doesn't really mesh with the number of hungry people living in this nation and the state of New Mexico. Want to learn more? Here's a movie about it.


Morning Word: Art Teacher Rearrested

Aaron Dean Chavez faces more sex charges

Morning WordThursday, February 4, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Teacher Rearrested
Aaron Dean Chavez, 47, the Santa Fe Catholic school art teacher accused of inappropriately touching a 6-year-old girl, is facing more charges after being rearrested on charges that he victimized other students. 

Trademark Infringement 
Lawyers for the Navajo Nation and Urban Outfitters are scheduled to be in federal court in Santa Fe today to discuss a trademark infringement case. Felicia Fonseca reports, “The clothing chain will ask a federal judge in Santa Fe on Wednesday to limit how far back in time the tribe can go to seek money over the company’s products, which included everything from necklaces, jackets and pants to a flask and underwear with the 'Navajo' name.”

Updated Use-of-Force Policy 
The Albuquerque Police Department has filed its second update on progress it’s making to comply with reform mandates. APD claims it is in the process of getting into compliance with 44 percent of the 280 goals outlined in the settlement with the Department of Justice, including amending its use-of-force policy. At the same time, a new report from the University of New Mexico suggests APD’s body camera policies are "confusing and contradictory." Researchers have even recommended officers be allowed to decide whether to record in some circumstances, including interactions with juveniles and witnesses.

Legislative News
  • Heath Haussamen reports that lawmakers are closer to reaching a deal on driver’s license legislation to comply with Real ID standards, but a provision that requires people to submit fingerprints for those second-tier driving privilege cards is still a sticking point. 
  • The House Judiciary Committee has approved a measure that would allow insurance companies to stop providing worker compensation coverage to people who are legally registered in the state's Medical Cannabis Program. 
  • A proposed constitutional amendment to change the way congressional districts are drawn up won unanimous approval in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday. 
  • Maggie Shepard reports lawmakers are having to consider the fiscal impact of mandating longer prison sentences for convicted drunk driver killers. 
  • “The House Education Committee on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that would require all school employees in New Mexico to get a background check with fingerprinting, but committee members asked the measure's sponsor to remove language that essentially mandates that teachers snitch on co-workers with criminal convictions,” according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Affluent Schools Earn Higher Grades
Robert Nott reports about  “a new legislative analysis, the state Public Education Department’s A-F school grading system [that] favors more affluent schools in New Mexico, which tend to earn A’s and B’s, while it works against schools that have a high percentage of students who are in special-education programs, are from low-income families or are English-language learners. Those schools, the report says, often get D’s and F’s.”
The study reflects concerns and critiques that educators, lawmakers and others across New Mexico have had of the A-F grading system since the Legislature passed it into law in 2011. It also gives weight to arguments that poverty impacts learning, although the report did not address that issue. Assigning school grades has been one of the cornerstones of Gov. Susana Martinez’s education-reform platform — both to inform the public about school performance and to determine which schools are struggling and need additional resources.
Progressive Debate
Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will face off at a hastily thrown-together town hall debate in New Hampshire on MSNBC tonight at 7 pm Mountain time. On Wednesday, they spent the day debating who is more progressive.

'Trumper-tantrum'
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is still ahead of US Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in New Hampshire polls, but he’s looking back at his loss in Iowa and suggesting that Cruz misled caucusgoers on Tuesday when his camp sent out an untruthful notice that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race, just before people started to vote. Carson has not dropped out. Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum announced they are withdrawing. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley dropped out of the Democratic race on Tuesday night.

On the Prowl
If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll want to check out this video of El Jefe roaming around the Southwest for over three years. The giant cat is the only known jaguar in the US after another was euthanized in 2009 after being injured.

Morning Word: Snow Delays SFPS Opening

Frigid temperature forecast for Santa Fe tonight

Morning WordWednesday, February 3, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Weather Delays School
Santa Fe Public Schools and others are on a two-hour delay this morning, and there’s a small chance of more snow before noon today. Weather forecasters say, “Bundle up,” because it’s going to be frigid tonight. 

Schools Win
Voters in Santa Fe County cast ballots in support of the school district’s Digital Learning Program, which provides computers and software to students. The technology bond won’t raise a mill tax but does extend an existing one for three more years. Voters in Albuquerque also approved a bond and mill levy money for Albuquerque Public Schools. Another bond for the Central New Mexico Community College also got a thumbs up.

Another Big F
The American Lung Association is giving New Mexico a failing grade for its efforts to reduce tobacco use. A new report shows the state is only spending $6.9 million a year on cessation programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends states spend $22.8 million. Lawmakers are considering a few measures to hike prices on tobacco sales.

PRC Demand 
The Public Regulation Commission wants a retired staffer to return almost $15,000 of sick pay he collected after quitting the agency.
Last month, KRQE News 13 reported on [Dwight] Lamberson’s departure deal, which runs counter to PRC policy requiring employees to use sick leave for actual illness.
The PRC has not provided journalist Matt Grubs any evidence Lamberson was ill at the time he was paid the money.

'You’re Fired' 
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission has fired its executive director amid allegations of fraud and embezzlement.

Pot Sales Rocket
Lawmakers who are on the fence about legalizing marijuana in New Mexico for adult recreational use might want to take a look at national sale and tax numbers. According to New Frontier Financial’s latest edition of The State of Legal Marijuana Markets, sales jumped 30 percent last year to $5.4 billion. Thomas Ragan at SFR says lawmakers here estimate they’d collect up to $60 million in tax revenue from legal pot sales.

Legislative News
  • The Senate Public Affairs Committee has passed a "compromise" bill aimed at making New Mexico compliant under the federal Real ID Act, but the sponsor of the original House bill isn’t happy. Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, says his proposal was “hijacked.” 
  • The bail bond reform bill has cleared the New Mexico Senate. 
  • Stuart Dyson reports that state lawmakers are working on legislation that would limit those “golden parachutes” and lucrative contract buyouts for school district superintendents. 
  • Reducing the number of rape kits that still haven’t been tested at the state crime lab will require hiring a few more technicians, but there might not be money in the state budget to get it done. 
  • A bill nicknamed Racheal’s Law that would allow rape victims to get a permanent restraining order against their convicted assailant is headed to state senate. 
Wolves Die 
Two Mexican gray wolves died after being shot with tranquilizer darts during a federal  count. 

Energy Plan Lacks Focus 
New Mexico In Depth’s Laura Paskus has been taking a long look at Gov. Susana Martinez’ energy plan.
The plan does talk of growing the state’s burgeoning solar and wind industries—including developing new businesses focused on energy storage in batteries—but many of the document’s recommendations concentrate around helping the state’s extractive industries.
Lobos Run Past UNLV
JR Oppenheim reports the UNM Lobos closed out another high-scoring game with an impressive win in Albuquerque last night. They surged past UNLV, 87-83. Next up: The Lobos (13-8, 6-2 Mountain West) head to San Diego State, which has a perfect conference record.

Livin’ on the Railyard

Local NewsWednesday, February 3, 2016 by Julie Ann Grimm

People who already live near the Santa Fe Railyard and people who want to live there are invited to the first public meeting about a proposed apartment complex on the city property, but details about the project are slow in coming.

What we do know is that a Dallas developer named Peter Arberg has been talking to the Railyard’s nonprofit property managers for more than two years. Richard Czoski, executive director of the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp., tells SFR there’s a meeting planned between some of his staff and Arberg’s architect to finalize the number of units on the table as well as other details about the project at least a week before the city-mandated Early Neighborhood Notification meeting at 5:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 11, at Warehouse 21.

The space slated for the apartment building is a parcel that was formerly leased by Don Wiviott, who built a live/work condominium building nearby and then ran into financial troubles. The new project, dubbed Railyard Flats, could be as high as 34 feet, according to a sign advertising the meeting.

Meanwhile, the owners of the Market Station building that houses REI, city offices and other retail space are due in court later this week on their bankruptcy filing, leaving its future—and the empty spot that used to be Flying Star—somewhat in the air. Just one parcel remains for lease on the Railyard property; a new restaurant and retail building near the Bon Marché store are supposed to break ground this spring, according to Czoski.



NM Leans toward Legalization

Local NewsWednesday, February 3, 2016 by Thomas Ragan

Nearly 70 percent of New Mexicans have no problem with legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, a considerable spike in approval from more than two years ago, according to a survey touted by a pair of Democratic legislators who are trying to legalize weed in the state and make money off it.

Last week at the Roundhouse, State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, and House Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, unveiled the poll in which 69 percent of respondents were in favor of making pot legal, a significant jump from the 52 percent approval rate in a similar poll in 2013.

Albuquerque-based Research and Polling Inc. conducted the survey over a five-day span in January by strategically placing more than 400 phone calls to adults who live across the state.

McCamley says he is hoping that his House Bill 75 will pass both chambers and eventually become law, making New Mexico the fifth state in the country to make the plant legal for adult consumption. His colleague, Ortiz y Pino, hopes to put the issue before the voters in November’s general election.

Legislators say between $20 million and $60 million in tax revenues would be generated annually from legalizing cannabis, which is one of the fastest-growing industries in America.

On Tuesday, another new survey showed that marijuana sales increased by 30 percent annually across the country, accounting for $5.4 billion in sales in 2015, according to New Frontier Financial’s latest edition of The State of Legal Marijuana Markets.

Each year, New Mexico legislators raise the issue of legalization and taxation, arguing that it’s time to find another funding source to pay for education and law enforcement in the state.

Build a Better Bicycle Program

Bike share program resurfaces, but concerns about equity in access remain

Local NewsWednesday, February 3, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

County Commissioner Miguel Chavez held up his flip phone, which he does not use to send or receive text messages, during the latest Metropolitan Planning Organization board meeting. He asked if his “kind of antiquated” device could be used to rent a bike through a bike share program. The answer is no.

“If you’re not hooked up to the technology, and you can’t text or enter information into a box, then you can’t access the system?” Chavez asked in response to the proposal to launch a just such a program in Santa Fe this summer that would allow riders to rent bikes by the hour.

“Correct,” said Erick Aune, MPO planner. No smartphone, text messages or credit cards means no bikes.

That barrier is expected to hit hardest for the city’s poorest people, those most in need of affordable transportation options. That’s why Chainbreaker Collective, an nonprofit that has dedicated thousands of hours to training bike mechanics in Santa Fe, has come out against the proposal, which recently saw support from the Bicycle and Trails Advisory Committee.

The inherent issues stem from the logistics of access. The system excludes those unable to get an ID, afford a smartphone or hold a bank account, so it will be largely unavailable to the city’s poor and homeless.

"People who tend to need transit assistance are getting pushed aside."

“People who tend to need transit assistance are getting pushed aside,” Tomás Rivera, executive director of Chainbreaker Collective, says. Outside of feeling that it’s distressing to see such blatant disregard for equity, Rivera says, the program would likely take funding from more equitable transportation options.

The City of Santa Fe hasn’t yet been asked to contribute financially to the pilot program that the joint city/county planning organization is considering; it would be overseen by Zagster Bike-Share Inc., a Boston-based bike share company that opened a program in Albuquerque last summer.

The bike share pilot project would put four stations with a total of 20 bikes available for rent for memberships ranging from $3 for a day to $25 per year. Rides are free for the first 90 minutes, and after that, they cost $3 per hour. Though bikes come with locks so they don’t have to be ridden only from station to station, they’re designed for quick trips, not ones that take all day or last overnight. The four stations currently proposed are at the South Capitol Railrunner Station, the Railyard, the County Administration Building on Grant Avenue and La Solana Center on West Alameda Street.

“I have not been a big fan of the program as introduced in the past because primarily of these social equity issues that continue to come up,” Councilor Carmichael Dominguez said at the MPO meeting, referencing a 2013 effort to launch a bike share program that failed due to cost. “My biggest concern with these programs is how transportation, or in this case bikes and bike sharing, helps those folks who are in need of transportation for everyday, real kinds of reasons, and … it’s not just convenience or … recreation.”

But this proposal looks like it’s aiming for high tourism areas and will be a service for wealthy visitors from out of town, not locals. And if Santa Fe wants a station on the Southside? The MPO says that depends on who comes forward to pay for it. The price for sponsoring a station is $10,000 for a two-year lease.

Across the country, the demographics of those using bike share programs have been woefully under-representative of the cities in which they’re based, skewing instead toward young, male and wealthier than average. In Washington DC, a city that is almost half white, 84 percent of bike share users surveyed were white. Data compiled by The Atlantic’s CityLab project suggests that “bike share membership has a tipping point of $50,000 in household income.” In Denver, 81 percent of B-Cycle users are white, and just 21 percent have a household income of less than $50,000.

In Memphis, Tenn., a study of a recent boom in bicycling found that support of those programs marked a bias toward an elite and creative class, further gentrifying neighborhoods. Bike share programs in New York City, Denver, and Portland, Ore., have been challenged for leaving low-income neighborhoods with significant transportation and infrastructure needs unserved, instead clustering stations in affluent, predominantly white areas. That’s a product of aiming for places where a density of commercial and residential activity will put enough possible riders on the street for a successful business model, bike share companies counter.

Albuquerque’s bike share, BICI, launched with the Downtown ABQ Main Street Initiative and City of Albuquerque’s support in May 2015 and rapidly grew to 75 bikes, with locations determined based on demand. According to Aune, Zagster reported some 823 members and 3,000 rides taken after eight months. The company has announced plans to expand to 225 bikes and 40 stations this year, including those proposed for Santa Fe.


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