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Morning Word: Governor Promotes Vaccinations

Immunization clinics will provide free shots to students

Morning WordTuesday, July 28, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Gov. Susana Martinez wants to make it easier for school-aged children to get vaccines. On Monday, she announced her Got Shots? Protect Tots! program, with clinics set up to offer free immunizations.
State law requires children who attend public schools in New Mexico to be vaccinated against diseases such as polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox. Exemptions are granted for medical and religious reasons, but those must be on file with the child’s school. 
Anne Constable reports. 

The state’s largest school district insists there is no teacher shortage, but New Mexico Political Report's Andy Lyman has a story about Albuquerque Public Schools recruiting some 300 teachers for the upcoming school year.

Read it here. 

In Taos, meanwhile, teachers at the city’s most popular alternative high school say they’re applying for a one-year leave of absence after the superintendent there ordered the school to relocate. KUNM’s Rita Daniels went to Taos to cover a big parent protest.

Listen to her radio story here. 

The New Mexico Department of Health confirms a Santa Fe County woman died from the plague, and that has officials concerned about the potential spread of the killer disease here in the late summer months.

SFR Editor Julie Ann Grimm reports.

Former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella, who is appealing his 10-year prison sentence, wants the feds to back off from seizing $70,000 cash from his bank account because it’s needed to help his wife, state Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, operate her bail bond business.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Officials from the state auditor's office told members of Santa Fe’s Finance Committee they’ve contracted a special audit and are seeking a legal opinion on whether money from those 2008 Santa Fe park bonds was spent appropriately.

Daniel J. Chacón reports. 

The Santa Fe man who is accused of throwing a banana peel at comedian Dave Chappelle is still hoping for a plea deal before the start of his trial. A judge still hasn’t decided if the comedian has to return to Santa Fe to testify against Christian Englander.

Read more at KOB.com. 

The Environmental Protect Agency wants the City of Albuquerque to monitor its air quality for pollution particulates floating in from forest fires, dusty roads and industrial emissions, and the federal agency is giving engineers more than $150,000 to help.

Read more at KUNM.org 

Journalist Marisa Demarco has learned that Albuquerque's Environment Department has rejected an operating permit application from an asphalt company that wanted to set up a new plant adjacent to a wildlife refuge in the South Valley, because contaminants could exceed air quality standards.

Listen here. 

Months after Deb Haaland was elected New Mexico Democratic Party chair, she’s hired an executive director. Denver attorney Joe Kabourek will help boost party candidates through the 2016 election cycle next year.

Read more at the Los Alamos Daily Dispatch. 

The GOP in Santa Fe County is looking for a new treasurer after removing Ignacio Padilla. who had created a piñata resembling Donald Trump and called the billionaire real estate tycoon a racist. The party says it doesn’t want its officers taking sides in the primary.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

US Sen. Martin Heinrich may be getting a little older, but he’s still got it going on, according to SexyCongress.net, who has him ranked as the best-looking politician on Capitol Hill. SFR’s Tom Ragan takes a look at how the rest of the state’s delegation ranks.

Read his story here.  

Youngsters with a Santa Fe ice skating club are thinking of military personnel still serving abroad, and they’ve decided to put together some care packages that will be shipped by Blue Star mothers once they’re all packaged up.

Read more at KRQE.com. 

Finally, green chile farmers are hoping a new machine they’re helping to develop will make it easier for them to harvest the summer bounty. 

Read it at KRQE. 

Hot Heinrich

Get a glimpse at how the Albuquerque congressman and the rest of New Mexico's delegation are ranked for good looks

Local NewsMonday, July 27, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

For those who think Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is quite the handsome man and could pass for Ben Affleck on a good day, they’d better brace themselves and make room for US Sen. Martin Heinrich.

Heinrich, an Albuquerque Democrat born in Nebraska, is currently ranked No. 1 as the sexiest politician on Capitol Hill, according to sexycongress.net.

The website, whose rankings are fluid and keep changing by the moment, puts the rest of New Mexico’s delegation further down on the list. Nambé's Rep. Ben Ray Luján, also a Democrat, is No. 53; US Sen. Tom Udall, the ranking Democrat from the state, is No. 174; and US Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican from the southern region, is No. 411. (Although, it must be noted, that since the weekend, Pearce has managed to move up from No. 416, proving that beauty isn’t just in the eyes of the beholder but subject to how many votes are cast, and that’s only fitting, given that these men are politicians.)

On the flip side, that is to the say among the females, check out the ranking for US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. She earned No. 26 in a field of 102 women, with the No. 1 total babe award going to US. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. At least for now. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democratic representative from New York, is holding No. 2.

Now, this not breaking news. Please do not be misled by the power of the pen (or in this case, the computer). 

Instead, this is just a sort of funny story on the fact that there’s an actual website out there that’s ostensibly taking the votes from the people for the people, then compiling the information after asking, point-blank, "Who would you rather have sex with?”

Then, it gives you, the conscientious voter, the choice between two candidates. The results are released in the moment, in nanoseconds. It's sort of like that running tally with the deficit clock that we so often see ticking away as it counts off the trillions.

In a day and age of Internet dating, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, it’s not uncommon for a mugshot to gain instant celebrity, as was the case with the hot guy from Stockton who had such piercing blue eyes that the crime he was accused of committing (felony gun possession) was overlooked by cyber masses, who could have well passed for teenyboppers during Beatlemania.

So it’s only natural then and was only a matter of time, really, that someone created such a site to honor Congress by merely posting their political mugshots, replete with a flag in the background. They are now being ranked, but by no means being held accountable, on the basis of their good looks rather than their policies.

Leave it up to us, then, to decide, for certainly they are too busy and in the throes of gridlock to contemplate their sex appeal or hold their own beauty pageants, right? It's the will of the people, once again.

And yet, you’d think that maybe one press secretary, one administrative assistant, one legislative aid would comment on Heinrich’s obvious good looks, the fact that he earned No. 1 out of a field of more than 400.  

Nada.

At Tom Udall’s office, from which press releases inundate my mailbox on a daily basis, the response was just as silent. Not a word.  

They keep us updated with every move that Udall makes, and yet nothing on his ranking, which, really, isn’t all that shabby for the 67-year-old. 

From Pearce’s office to Luján’s, down the line, they passed the buck. 

Not even the canned, “We don’t really obsess with such matters; we’re too busy trying to make New Mexico and America better on a daily basis. Next question please.”

Instead, it was, “Let me take your name and number, and we’ll get back to you.”

Only one person in nearly a dozen attempts at getting a comment made a remark from the heart: “That’s awesome! Who was number one?”

That, of course, came from Gillibrand’s office in New York. She then quickly took it all back and forwarded me to yet another press secretary.

But toward the end of the day, we stand corrected; this came from Heinrich's office. Something of the canned variety, once again: 

"This week in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Heinrich will be participating in the markup of broad, bipartisan energy legislation that addresses a wide range of national energy opportunities and challenges. 

"This could last a couple days. He also intends to be involved in hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Iran nuclear deal. Additionally, the Senate is debating the Highway Trust Fund and efforts to fund it before it runs out of money at the end of the month. Senator Heinrich is focused on these and other important matters."

Now that's hot. 

Credit goes to Comedy Central's @midnight show for tipping us off. Watch their segment: 

Local Plague Death Confirmed

Santa Fe County woman died of plague, health department is treating those in contact with her

Local NewsMonday, July 27, 2015 by Julie Ann Grimm

A Santa Fe woman has died of plague, putting health officials on edge about the potential for the disease to spread this summer in Northern New Mexico, tests over the weekend confirmed.

Dr. Joan Baumbach, the deputy state epidemiologist, tells SFR that it's the health department’s policy not to release information on the location of where the 52-year-old woman likely contracted plague. 

So far in 2015, eight animals have died of the disease in Santa Fe, Torrance and Bernalillo counties, tests indicate. 

“We know that it is circulating and we are concerned this year for sure,” Baumbach says. “We are concerned every year, but this year we are seeing a lot of activity already and one very unfortunate fatality. Some years we have more than others.”

In 2014, two people died of the plague. In 2013, that number doubled to four humans; in 2012, there was only one human fatality, and in 2011 there were two fatalities. There were no cases in 2010.

This year, in addition to the woman who died, the state has confirmed three dogs, three cats and two rabbits contracted plague. 

Baumbach says the department wants residents and visitors to pay particular attention to rodents that can carry fleas, the bite of which is the most common way humans contract the plague. Also, keep pets from roaming free, or if that’s impossible, make sure you’re using appropriate flea control products.  

“Really be aware if you are living up in this area to think about plague and to really protect yourself and your pets,” she says. 

Sudden fever or chills and swelling in the groin are common symptoms of a human case, she says, and those symptoms should prompt an immediate visit to a health-care provider.    

“It would not at all be overdoing it to be seen in urgent care with those symptoms if that is available to you,” she says. 

Three kinds of plague are present in New Mexico: bubonic, which settles into the lymph notes; septicemic, in the blood; and pneumonic, in the lungs. The third form is the only one in which the disease can be passed from human to human. 

While Baumbach says the department can’t release much information about the recent fatality, a Friday news release said that “because the patient had pneumonia, health care providers and other close contacts of the patient who have been determined to have been exposed are taking preventive antibiotic therapy.”


Morning Word: Auditor Denies GOP Accusations

Keller says he didn't violate Governmental Conduct Act

Morning WordMonday, July 27, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
A former employee who is being sued by Blue Stone Strategy Group alleges in a counterclaim that the firm, which employed Tim Keller before he was elected state auditor, was improperly paid by clients to help them win contracts, but Keller, who is not named as a party in the lawsuit, denies he violated any provisions in the Governmental Conduct Act. This all follows revelations by Keller that he's been investigating Tax and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla for pressuring staffers to give a former client preferential treatment.

Colleen Heild has the story.

Photojournalist Roberto Rosales and Albuquerque Journal reporter Lauren Villagran discovered that rugged terrain along the US-Mexico border continues to present law enforcement some real challenges on the lookout for drug mules. Still, the number of drugs seized is on the rise.

Read more about their trip to the border.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in California issued a ruling that says the US Department of Justice’s current system of detaining children with their mothers after they have crossed the US-Mexico border violates an 18-year-old court settlement.

The AP has details.

Despite the monsoon rains, artists selling their crafts at the Spanish Market in Santa Fe report having a good weekend.

Read it the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Political columnist Milan Simonich says Gov. Susana Martinez could help reverse the state's dismal child poverty ranking simply by supporting a proposal to use money from the state's permanent fund.

Read his view here. 

Congress may allow the US Department of Veterans Administration to divert some program funds to close a budget gap and shorten medical appointment waiting times.

Read it here.

The University of New Mexico is earning millions in royalties and patent payments from sharing its technology research with commercial businesses.

Kevin Robinson-Avila has details.

Another early-morning shooting has left yet another Albuquerque teenager dead and two others injured.

Read it at KOB.com.

A New Mexico State Police officer has been put on administrative leave. KRQE reports it might be because the officer missed a court date for a defendent he may being having a relationship with.

See it at KRQE.

Morningstar Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Mayor Javier Gonzales plan to move that City Council reconsider its approval of the senior living facility

Local NewsFriday, July 24, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Mayor Javier Gonzales has decided to ask the City Council to send the Morningstar senior living development back to the drawing board—or at least, to the Planning Commission. 

The development was approved after the mayor cast a tie-breaking vote during a July 8 City Council meeting that stretched into the wee hours of the morning, following lengthy public testimony from area residents opposing the change the development would bring to the Old Pecos Trail area. 

Mayor Gonzales announced that he intends to move for the Planning Commission to discuss how the proposed development might be adapted to become better compatible with surrounding properties. He specifically suggests the commission consider the height, massing, floor stepbacks, color, windows and visual buffering. 

Opponents pointed out during the meeting that the site sits atop a ridge and would greatly affect the sense of Santa Fe for those who arrive in the city via the historic Old Pecos Trail route.

"I remain concerned about the design, and I am also deeply troubled by the divisiveness this case has revealed in our community,” the mayor said in a press release. "As divided as this community is right now, doing our honest best to find common ground is the least we can do, and I will never slam the door shut on that chance. I've reached out to stakeholders in this project, and I'm asking for their earnest participation in solving this problem.”

He continued to express that the process had not allowed those involved to find a compromise. During the City Council meeting, the Southeast Neighborhood Association, which had appealed the Planning Commission’s initial approval of the development, was given the chance to negotiate with the developer on the size of the proposed 104-bed housing project. The developers offered to reduce the size of the development from 73,550 to 70,550 square feet, but the neighborhood association would not budge in their desire to see the area developed per existing zoning, which allows for one dwelling per acre. 

"I'm not happy with the way this process played out,” the mayor said in a press release. “This motion gives us a chance to find a better solution, and I am hopeful that's exactly what we will get."

During the July 8 meeting, the council was split on the development based on concerns over whether it fit the definition of a “continuing care facility,” which could receive the zoning exemption requested, as well as how it would affect the nearby historic transportation corridor. If Gonzales’ motion carries, the Planning Commission will revisit the development, and if not, construction will move forward as planned. 

Explosion Burns Two Santa Fe Pot Dispensary Employees

DEA collecting evidence at NewMexiCann

Local NewsFriday, July 24, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Two parallel law enforcement investigations are under way this afternoon following Thursday's fiery gas explosion that injured two employees at NewMexiCann Natural Medicine’s cannabis dispensary in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Police tell SFR they are vigorously working to determine the cause of the explosion that left Nicholas Montoya and Aaron Smith, both in their 20s, with serious third degree burns. At noon, both men remain hospitalized after being airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center last night. Montoya was listed in critical condition. Smith is listed in serious condition.

Police spokeswoman Lt. Andrea Dobyns tells SFR that investigators believe that butane gas was involved in the dangerous explosion, but it is still unclear what ignited the gas.

NewMexiCann staffers also use liquid ethanol to extract cannabis oils for use in edible and other cannabis-derived products, but it was not immediately clear if ethanol was involved in yesterday’s explosion.

“We are looking for any violations of building codes and ordinances,” Dobyns says, adding that agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency are also on scene and have "taken possession of all evidence." 

Meanwhile, Assistant Santa Fe Fire Chief Paul Babcock tells SFR his investigators will launch their own probe into what ignited the explosion after law enforcement officials clear the scene.

During a brief telephone interview, NewMexiCann’s attorney Mark Lowry says Len Goodman, the founder of the nonprofit producer, is providing regulatory and law enforcement agencies full access to the facility on West San Mateo.

“Right now our focus is on the health and well-being of the employees who were injured,” says Lowry. 

A dispensary worker who says he can't comment turned away a line of cars at NewMexiCann's closed facility on Friday afternoon, and patients reported that the nearby New Mexico Top Organics dispensary was crowded and running out of some supplies.    

Butane gas is used in extracting potent levels of THC from dried cannabis flowers and making top-selling products called shatter, wax and dabs. But the manufacturing process is dangerous and requires expensive equipment and skilled staff.

After 30 gas-related explosions in Colorado, regulators there imposed strict new extraction rules July 1. While licensed producers are allowed to safely manufacture the products via gas extraction, amateur patients who attempt to use hazardous gases in private homes could face felony charges.

Jason Marks, an attorney who represents multiple cannabis producers, says that rules governing New Mexico’s medical cannabis program don’t prohibit the gas extraction.

During a recent review of the program's rules, Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward decided not to impose any new gas extraction restrictions. Ward's spokesman, Kenny Vigil tells SFR he is not aware of any similar accidents at any other locations.

UPDATED: Sean R Waite, the special agent in charge of the DEA in New Mexico tells SFR the agency's investigation is ongoing in cooperation with the US Attorney's Office but the agency won't comment about whether the evidence it seized includes medical cannabis products sold in the dispensary to qualified patients. While the federal government lists marijuana as an illegal controlled substance, the US Attorney General has previously told the DEA to stand down on medical cannabis producers as long as they follow state rules. 

This Weekend

Spanish Market is here!

Weekend PicksFriday, July 24, 2015 by SFR

Mark's Midnight Carnival Show

Don't let the name fool you, this rock band will play at 8:30.

More Info >>

Sketches in Charcoal and Fire

Photographer Rumi Vesselinova's exhibition examines the transformation of the Southwest landscape under the conditions of drought and natural disasters. Through Sept. 24

More Info >>


64th Annual Spanish Market

Artists display their art, jewelry, photography and more.

More Info >>

A Newspaper Editorial Is Not A Poem (Yet)

An installment of the "Writing as Medicine" workshop; draw inspiration from African-American literary forms and turn editorials debating police brutality into poems. Register at nmliteraryarts.org

More Info >>


Evolving Intentions in Public Art

Join Axle Contemporary for their newest press publication about projects that push the conventional definitions of art.

More Info >>

Journey to Italy

Italian director Roberto Rossellini's influential film stars Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders as a British couple whose marriage is on the decline while they visit Italy.

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: Sanctuary Status puts SF Police Funding at Risk

GOP legislation would punish local jursidictions that don't cooperate with feds

Morning WordFriday, July 24, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
US House Republicans have proposed police department funding cuts for cities like Santa Fe that offer undocumented workers sanctuary.
Marcela Diaz, director of the Santa Fe-based immigrant advocacy organization Somos Un Pueblo Unido, contends sanctuary cities don’t obstruct U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement efforts. But the designation means “we certainly don’t have to spend our resources terrorizing our communities,” she said. 
Uriel J Garcia has the details. 

City of Albuquerque officials say they don't believe recent violent crimes at city motels, including the attempted robbery and shooting of a former CNN producer, will impact tourism this summer.

See it at KOB.


At the same time, more residents are ditching the state’s largest city. Bloomberg News ranks Albuquerque in the Top 20 for emigration.

Read more about the exodus here. 

Still, housing sales in New Mexico are on track to set an annual record.
“Eighteen New Mexico counties reported an increase in 2015 year-to-date sales over 2014 January through June figures,” said [Realtors Association of New Mexico] President Baro Shalizi. “Higher rents, a stronger job market, and gradually rising interest rates are coaxing many first-time home buyers into becoming home owners,” he said. 
Read it at ABQ Business First. 

Meanwhile, another record has been set: More New Mexicans died from drug overdoses in 2014 than ever before.
The 536 deaths in 2014 mark a 19 percent increase over the year before, following a two-year decline, according to the state Department of Health. That number shows the state needs to step up efforts to curb addiction, including better monitoring of prescription painkillers, according to state Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Landen. 
 Read more at the ABQ Journal. 

Key road construction projects in New Mexico could be halted if Congress doesn’t authorize new funds and federal highway workers end up furloughed Aug. 1
[Deputy New Mexico Transportation Department Secretary Loren] Hatch says federal funding works kind of like a credit card. The state pays out of pocket and is then reimbursed. At any one time, there are between 200 and 250 highway projects in the state to the tune of $640 million. That includes projects like the Coors and I-40 interchange and the project on I-25 south near the Sunport.
It would be a big blow to the 7,000 private contractors working on New Mexico roads.
 “That’s the way they support their families. These are our family members, these are our neighbors, these are our friends,” said Hatch. 
See it at KRQE. 

Easter Seals El Mirador, a behavioral health care provider in Santa Fe, wants a court to review a controversial audit that claims it owes $127,000 in Medicaid overbilling.

Justin Horwath has details. 

Gov. Susana Martinez continues to defend her embattled Tax and Revenue Department secretary. State Auditor Tim Keller claims Demesia Padilla pressured staff employees to give a former client preferential treatment. While the governor told reporter Steve Terrell she hasn’t talked to Padilla about the claims, she added she continues to have faith in Padilla until she sees evidence that she shouldn’t.

Read more at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Meanwhile, the auditor’s probe, which has been turned over to the attorney general’s office, doesn’t appear to be fazing Padilla. She spoke with Journal reporters Dan Boyd and Deborah Baker.
“I have a big job; it’s a big agency,” Padilla said in an interview after appearing before an interim legislative committee to talk about other tax matters. “We have so many positive things that are going on with the department, that to try to put our energy (toward) the political circus that the state auditor is creating is not a good use of my time.” 
Read more at the ABQ Journal. 

After being ordered to mediate a new power replacement plan at its coal plant in Northern New Mexico, PNM may be close to reaching a deal with other stakeholder groups.
However, one party, New Energy Economy, decided not to participate in negotiations, given that the accord would apparently allow PNM to move forward on absorbing the excess coal generation at San Juan, and NEE remains opposed to that. 
“NEE is not part of the settlement, because if PNM takes on any more coal it would be a crushing blow to the economy and the environment [and climate],” said NEE executive director Mariel Nanasi. 
Even if a deal is reached, it would still have to be publicly vetted. Public Regulation Commissioners, who are elected to represented consumer interests, will have the final vote on the plan. 

Kevin Robinson Avila reports. 

Finally, this week’s guest on “Report from Santa Fe” is Jennifer Raymond, a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University. She’s in New Mexico talking about the importance of diversity in the scientific workforce.
"A big part of the top talent pool is female and we are losing a large fraction of them. And so when we lose them, we lose also the discoveries they would have made, the cures for diseases they would have found, the inventions they would have made, the solutions for problems of society, the art that they would have produced."  
Watch Lorene Mills’ interview with Raymond on New Mexico PBS TV at 8:00 on Sunday morning.

That's it for another long news week. Have a super weekend and see you back here on Monday for another big state news roundup.

Soggy

Fort Marcy ball field sinkholes shut down baseball game

Local NewsThursday, July 23, 2015 by Julie Ann Grimm

Sinkholes that developed in the baseball field at Fort Marcy Park caused the cancellation of the Santa Fe Fuego game on Thursday night.

Team general manager Yvonne Encinias tells SFR that the problem appears to have resulted from some kind of plumbing malfunction in the field’s irrigation system. 

“It could be just be the way we dealt with some of the moisture. There has been just so much,” she says. 

The half-dozen soggy holes that range in size from a foot to 3 feet in diameter would've been dangerous for players, she says. 

While city officials were not on hand to deal with the problem that players discovered around 5 pm, Encinias says a city park manager assured her a crew would get the field in playable condition in time for Friday’s scheduled 6 pm game against the Trinidad Triggers. The teams are set to face off every night through Tuesday. 

The Pecos Baseball league is heading into the final games of the season. Standings on the league website say the Fuego, who last year won the league championship game, are currently the second place team in the Northern Division. 

And in other news, the cancelled game means the crowd wasn’t subjected to this editor’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, also scheduled for the game. Dodged that bullet. 

Morning Word: Auditor Suggests Officials Obstructed Investigation

Tim Keller releases more documents

Morning WordThursday, July 23, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
State Auditor Tim Keller is accusing the Tax and Revenue Department and others in Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration of obstructing his investigation into whether Secretary Demesia Padilla pressed her staff to give a former client preferential treatment.
Keller released four documents related to his office’s preliminary investigation into whether Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla illegally intervened to give preferential treatment to her former client and retaliated against employees who brought concerns. The Taxation Department collects and distributes tax funds in New Mexico. 
Joey Peters has the story at NM Political Report. 

According to a KRQE report, a recently paroled murderer has a new job as a cook supervisor. And get this: David Van Horn, who is the first former inmate participating in a New Mexico Corrections Department pilot program, earns $17 hour working as an independent contractor for the same institution where he served his 20-year sentence. Kim Holland reports Gregg Marcantel, secretary of the state Department of Corrections, made the choice to hire Van Horn for the program’s kick-off.
 “He’s coming back to the community, whether anybody likes it or not, and we’re trying to work a better public safety policy,” Marcantel said. 
No word in the television piece about whether Van Horn’s employment violates the New Mexico Corrections Department’s own ethics policy. It bars employees from offering any kind of financial assistance to people in their custody.

See it at KRQE. 

There's another big push to extradite a man accused of killing a New Mexico State Police officer before hijacking an airplane and fleeing to Cuba in 1971.

See it at KOB. 

On Wednesday, public regulation commissioners voted unanimously to set aside a petition from the state’s attorney general’s office requesting a cost-benefit analysis of renewable energy sources and their impact on the electric grid. With a six-month hiring freeze in place at the PRC, Commissioner Pat Lyons says the agency doesn’t have the manpower to do it now.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Meanwhile, it looks like two more cities in California may be cutting ties with the embattled coal plant in Northern New Mexico.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the city of Glendale, California, will cut its ties with the coal-fired power plant in 2017, and use the $9 million it spends annually on power from the plant on a different source of electricity. Glendale is one of the partners in the plant, and has had a 1.2 percent ownership stake in it since 1992. The Public Service Co. of New Mexico is operator and co-owner of the plant in the Four Corners area, but shares its interest with several other entities. Banning, California, mayor Debbie Franklin also told the Press Enterprise of Riverside, California, earlier this month that her city, too, would like to cut its ties with the plant. 
Dan Mayfield has more at ABQ Business First. 

That huge, record-setting $165 million verdict a jury awarded to the family of a mother and daughter who were killed by a Federal Express truck has been upheld by State District Judge Francis Mathew. 
“I cannot say the verdict was returned based on passion or prejudice on the part of the jury,” he said.
Lawyers for FedEx argued that jurors decided on such a large amount — the largest civil award in state history — because they were inflamed by “gut-wrenching” testimony from the dead woman’s husband, as well as by several graphic photos of the crash. 
Reporter Robert Nott has more. 

A Santa Fe Public Schools program is starting to chip away at the teacher shortage with accelerated training for hard-to-fill spots. Elizabeth Miller has the story about teaching new teachers to teach.

Read it at SFR. 

A former Española police officer won’t face trial for embezzlement after all. First Judicial District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco says she doesn’t think she could prove her case against Solomon Romero, who was accused of trading police department ammunition for T-shirts.

Uriel Garcia has the story. 

This could become a big problem in a few months: Reports show the Social Security disability fund could run dry by next years. At minimum, the 11 million Americans who received monthly benefits could face steep cuts.

Read the AP story here.  

Longtime Santa Fe New Mexican journalist Staci Matlock has a report on the impact of one of the state’s top agricultural crops that will leave you, like us, craving summer onions.
Known far and wide for its green and red spicy chiles, New Mexico also is one of the largest summer onion producers in the nation. In 2014, the state earned nearly $20 million more from onion crops than chiles, according to federal agriculture production statistics. Onions came in as the third biggest agricultural crop in the state, after hay and pecans. Corn was fourth and chiles came in fifth.
Morning Word: Governor Promotes Vaccinations
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