One-day tour opens Elephant Butte Dam

From - SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Members of the public had not been allowed to walk across the historic and massive Elephant Butte Dam 200 miles south of Santa Fe for more than a decade. On Jan. 7 for one day only, the public can again toured the 25-story, nearly century-old dam that backs up the Rio Grande to form New Mexico's largest water body. The dam has been closed to visitors since Sept. 11, 2001. The American Society of Civil Engineers has designated the dam a National Historical Engineering Landmark. The dam was built in the early 1900s by the then-fledgling U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to control flooding, supply irrigation to hundreds of farmers and to resolve problems over the shared Rio Grande. As farmers and families settled in Colorado and New Mexico, they began using an increasing amount of water. Texas and Mexico complained they weren't getting their fair share. The reservoir was the answer. Originally called Engle Dam, it stood 301 feet high and was 1,674 feet long when it was finished. It holds back more than 2 million acre-feet of Rio Grande water. Read more

Internal Affairs Investigation Launched In Rio Rancho

From - RIO RANCHO, Authorities in Rio Rancho have launched an internal affairs investigation based on at least one citizen complaint. The city won't detail the nature of the investigation, but Action 7 News has learned it centers around a code enforcement officer. A citizen complaint alleges the individual was collecting bets while on duty, perhaps even in a city truck. Still, the city won't confirm much and the officer remained on patrol as of Friday. "Based the allegations, we launched an internal affairs investigation," Rio Rancho Sgt. Nicholas Onken said. "We look at it seriously and review at what level those allegations need to be investigated."Read more

Santa Fe Community College mulls lawsuit over higher education center

From the Santa Fe New - by Robert Nott - All sides seem to be digging in their heels on the issue of whether Santa Fe Community College requires legislative approval to open its Higher Education Center on property adjacent to the campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. The state's Higher Education Department maintains that the move requires the Legislature's OK. The community college disagrees and — bolstered by a recent advisory letter from the attorney general and the support of several legislators — is contemplating litigation. The community college has been spearheading an effort to create the center, which would allow Santa Feans to pursue bachelor's and master's degrees without leaving the community. The center, funded with $12 million from a summer 2010 bond election, actually opened in autumn in the west wing of the college's campus on Richards Avenue. It serves some 550 students and has three partnering institutions — The University of New Mexico, New Mexico Highlands University and the Institute of American Indian Arts — which offer courses. The college had planned to build a new, 35,000-square-foot facility to house the center, giving it room to provide enrollment and financial aid offices, computer labs, classrooms, tutorial space and other amenities to handle up to 800 students. But in mid-November, Jose Z. Garcia, secretary of the state's Higher Education Department, told SFCC President Sheila Ortego that his understanding of the state's Learning Center Act indicates the college requires legislative support for the new center. Later that month, Garcia appeared at an SFCC board meeting and told the assembly that Gov. Susana Martinez does not want more colleges or learning centers created in the state until she receives an account of how the existing ones are working. Read more

No Work, All Pay at City Hall in Espanola

From the Rio Grande Sun - Each EspaƱola resident paid approximately $5.50 for city employees to take a paid week off between the Christmas and New Year holidays. The City Council voted in November to approve City Manager James Lujan’s $56,500 recommendation to pay city employees for not working between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2. The move came in the middle of a fiscal year in which the Council approved 12 mandatory unpaid furlough days for all city employees to trim $368,308 from its budget. Mayor Alice Lucero said the holidays are the most unproductive time of year for city employees, with children being off from school and families to care for. She said the leave also saves the city money because the buildings aren’t in use. However, state Municipal League general counsel Randy Van Vleck said previously giving employees that much paid time off may not be a great idea. He said the public may get angry that employees are getting paid “for work not being done.” Van Vleck also said it wasn’t fair that some employees get the time off while others don’t. Read more

A district divided: Racial, religious tensions stir up turmoil

From the Farmington Daily Times - FARMINGTON — The Central Consolidated School District still is waiting for resolution from the state Public Education Department regarding the possible discipline of its acting superintendent and a proposed split that would divide the 3,000-square-mile district along the reservation line. But to many, the division already has occurred. The district, part of the public school system since 1931, already is severed along lines of race and religion, not to mention opinions about political control, curriculum, personnel, money and the teachers union. To some, actions within the district since May have permanently fractured an already vulnerable community. To others, the radical changes signal a sign of better times ahead. Regardless of the outcome, the district's players, along with state and legal representatives, have a long road ahead. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, settled in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Shortly afterward, they started moving south, colonizing locations in Arizona, California, Nevada and northern Mexico. Along the way — and continuing into the present — the Mormons interacted with American Indians, converting them to the religion, operating trading posts and transporting roughly 20,000 of their children to foster homes or student placement programs largely in Utah. And so began a relationship between two cultures that are at once similar and disparate. At best, they co-exist; at worst, they lead to an impasse so complete outside entities must intervene. The Mormons also founded Kirtland, home of six of the Central Consolidated School District's 17 schools, in the 1880s, and named the community after Kirtland, Ohio, one of the early headquarters of the Mormon church. The Kirtland Business Office, the topic of recent and emotional debate, is the site of the district's first school. Built after the district formed in 1917, the school represented the consolidation of community schools in Kirtland and neighboring Fruitland. The district expanded to encompass reservation communities in Shiprock, Newcomb, Naschitti and Ojo Amarillo — a 3,000-acre chunk of land that stretches west to the Arizona state border, north to Colorado and south to the McKinley County line. But the Kirtland area, in a move unprecedented in the state, is trying to split from the reservation portion as a reactive measure after the board voted May 17 to close the KBO and move administration to Shiprock. Read more

Clovis mayor hopeful of federal money for Ute Water Project this year

From the Clovis News Journal - Her own political campaign aside, ensuring a sustainable water source for Clovis, Portales and other eastern New Mexico communities has been and always will be a top priority, Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said Friday. “The need for continued work to secure funding and compromise with the entities involved is obvious,” Brumfield said regarding a rift over the Ute Water Project between concerns in Quay County and those in communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties. Officials in Quay County worry diverting water from Ute Lake would affect what has become a valuable and lucrative recreation resource. But the water is necessary for communities such as Portales and Clovis, which is why the dam was built, creating the reservoir in the first place. In August, Brumfield, three dozen public officials and supporters attended the first phase’s groundbreaking ceremony for an intake held at Ute Lake. While it was a ceremonious step for the project, it was marred by jeers and chants of hundreds of protesters. Their disapproval centered around fear the authority’s pipeline project will drain the lake. “We do not want to drain the lake,” Brumfield said Thursday at a Ute Reservoir Committee meeting. “It is not nor has never been our agenda to drain the lake.” Read more

State agency puts the brakes on vehicle use

From the Carlsbad Current Argus - SANTA FE — Jerome D. Block Jr., driven from his elected office by a theft scandal, has left one last mark on the state agency he cheated. Largely because of Block, the 266 employees of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission now risk their livelihood if they take home a state vehicle without permission from the chief of staff. The state's five public regulation commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to tighten controls on the 101 vehicles in their fleet. Even before the commissioners formally approved the plan Thursday, a crackdown was under way. One taxpayer noticed a PRC employee in a state car at a Walmart one morning last month. The worker, it turned out, had stopped to buy Christmas cards while driving a state car on public business. Montoya said this led to a warning for the employee. Since the publicity about Block, the citizenry is watching how the agency conducts itself, Montoya said. Read more

Tebow haters hate another overtime Tim Tebow win

29 to 23 in OT - T. Tebow - 316 YDS, 2 TD - John 3:16


Gun Thefts

NewsNM: Swickard - This was sent to me today. January 7, 2012, 1:21 PM - Public service announcement: While I was in a Denver gun store today, my car was tagged on the wheel in the parking lot. The gangs do this on wheels or bumpers at gun stores, shooting ranges, gun shows etc. Later when you are parked at a restaurant, hotel, or other location that’s less well guarded or under video surveillance, other gang members spot the marker and break into the car for a quick gun grab. This is so RAMPANT in San Antonio where we were for a National shoot this summer, the police chief of that county came out to brief the 400 participants of our competition. Too bad three teams had already been victimized the first day.

Martinez Wants Funding Reform for Higher Education

Susana Martinez
Governor Susana Martinez met with a large group of regents, governing board members and post-secondary institution presidents in Socorro last week to discuss the state’s new higher education funding formula. The new formula will reward New Mexico’s higher learning institutions based on outcome measures that reflect student achievement and preparedness for New Mexico’s workforce, as opposed to basing the allocation of funding on measurements like the size (square footage) of each institution. In addition, while the current formula funds colleges and universities based on courses and degree programs started, the new formula would be based on courses and degree programs completed.
“The central goal of New Mexico’s higher education institutions should be to graduate the students New Mexico’s economy will depend on for decades,” said Governor Martinez. “In an increasingly competitive global economy, this formula will help us deliver the graduates we need for the jobs of tomorrow, and it serves to intently focus our attention on the achievement of our students.”
Under the formula, institutions would receive funding for graduating students in so-called “STEHM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Health Care and Mathematics) fields. A recent study disclosed that New Mexico’s economy will require nearly 50,000 employees with STEHM degrees by 2018 and nearly 95% of those jobs will require post-secondary education and training.
“For the first time in the history of New Mexico, the younger generation is less educated than the generations before,” said Higher Education Secretary Jose Garcia. “This new formula is our opportunity to make sure today’s students are tomorrow’s successful employees.”
For decades, the New Mexico higher education funding formula rewarded measure such as student enrollment and square footage. This created a system where New Mexico taxpayers paid over $53,000 per completed degree, compared to neighboring Arizona, which pays $39,000.
Last year, in an event that was also held at New Mexico Tech, the Martinez administration announced that an agreement had been struck with the state’s colleges and universities to impose a two-year moratorium on the construction of new buildings, in an effort to curb the proliferation of new construction that had been occurring, at least in part, due to the incentive for increasing square footage that was built into the state’s current higher education funding formula.


Harbison: Ignoring the Past

Jim Harbison
As we begin another new year we should examine how historically prominent people viewed society - thoughts to ponder as we enter another election cycle to decide who will govern us and set the path for our future.
In 55 B.C. Cicero said "The budget should be balanced, the Treasury must be replenished, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of public officials should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to other countries must be removed so Rome does not go bankrupt. People must learn to work again, instead of living off the state." Thomas Jefferson wrote “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not” and “it is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes”. Both comments are certainly appropriate today.
Marcus Cicero
Franklin Pierce our 14th President said "[I must question] the constitutionality and propriety of the Federal Government assuming to enter into a novel and vast field of legislation, namely, that of providing for the care and support of all those ... who by any form of calamity become fit objects of public philanthropy ... I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity throughout the United States. To do so would, in my judgment, be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive of the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." Read rest of the column here: News New Mexico


Kintigh Will Try to Reform Lawmaker Retirement...Again

Dennis Kintigh
Alamogordo Daily News - Unpaid legislator is a term closer to fiction than fact. New Mexico's lawmakers, called citizen legislators because they work for no salary, still qualify for state pensions after five years in office. Rep. Dennis Kintigh says the system is a too generous toward those in power. Kintigh, R-Roswell, has filed two bills to reform laws that potentially will provide pensions for himself, the other 111 sitting legislators and the lieutenant governor. One of his bills would raise the minimum age to 62 for legislators to collect state pensions. Currently, a legislator of any age with at least 14 years of service qualifies for a state pension. "I just don't think it's right that people in their 40s or 50s can receive a retirement benefit like that," Kintigh said in an interview. His other bill would increase a legislator's contributions toward his or her pension from $500 to $600 a year. Kintigh is reviving that measure. It cleared the House of Representatives last year before being amended in the Senate and then dying as the session expired. Kintigh, who turns 60 this year, said he is not opposed to legislators receiving a pension at a typical retirement age. He himself is contributing $500 annually to the fund in hopes that he someday will draw a pension check. Read full story here: News New Mexico

"Bye By Congress"


Recess Appointments With No Recess?

Washington Times - The White House says it doesn’t fear potential lawsuits challenging President Obama’s controversial appointments while the Senate is on break, as Republican lawmakers and presidential hopefuls blasted the move as unconstitutional.
“We feel very confident about the legal foundation upon which the president made this decision,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday during a briefing with reporters.
“I would be surprised if Republicans wanted to argue that [Congress is in session] even though the chambers are empty, even though many members of Congress have described what they’re on now as a recess … all of which plays into our argument that they’re in recess.”
Mr. Obama on Wednesday bypassed the Senate to install three members of the National Labor Relations Board and former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Copper Theft Getting More Expensive

KOAT - Copper thefts are a major problem across the state and for PNM it's turned into some very expensive repairs. PNM said thieves are doing whatever they can to get their hands on copper. "These thefts run the gamut from very sophisticated to very crude," PNM spokeswoman Susan Sponar. A local dentist office said some thieves ransacked their building for copper wire worth thousands of dollars. "It took a lot of labor, a lot of people and a lot of machinery and tools to steel this wire," dentist Michael Armijo said.
PNM replaced the old lock on the office's transformer with a sturdier one but said the padlocks are mainly used to keep the public from getting hurt. "Very determined thieves can, and will, circumvent those security measures and unfortunately we lose copper, equipment and customers lose power as well," Sponar said. Read full story here: News New Mexico


Counterfeit Product Crackdown at Flea Markets

KOB - TV - The Albuquerque Police Department spent Saturday morning handing out warnings to flea market vendors.  They were targeting people selling cosmetics, but ended up finding more than just Cover Girl. APD along with other police agencies fanned out across local flea markets to give vendors a warning.
"If we come back in two weeks and they're still selling the stuff then they're going to get a citation," one officer told us.
Anything you put on your skin cannot be re-sold, whether it's open or not. Vendors seemed surprised. But, officers found more than just cosmetics. One vendor had a load of counterfeit DVDs. Police say they know they didn't get to them all violators. Read full story here: News New Mexico