APD settlement costs rise in 2010, 2011

From KRQE-TV - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Over the past two years combined, the city of Albuquerque has paid out more than $8 million to settle police misconduct cases. The Albuquerque Journal reports that in the previous eight years, the city had paid nearly $10 million to resolve such cases. Mayor Richard Berry has done away with his predecessor Martin Chavez's policy of settling a limited number of cases. Chavez, now running for Congress, in the past has defended his limited settlement policy and has said the city prevailed in almost every case instead of paying out. But Rob Perry, Albuquerque's chief administrative officer, said the Chavez administration saddled Berry's team with a high number of unresolved cases and said that while payouts have gone up, the city could have lost more money in some cases if it had gone to trial. All but five of the 60 payouts in 2010 and 2011 stemmed from cases that were initiated during Chavez's tenure as mayor, Perry said. The city felt it was in its best economic interest to settle some of the cases, he said. A statement from the president and vice president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association says the policy shift amounts to a lack of support for police officers from the city administration. Read more

Santa Fe New Mexican editorial: Powering up Santa Fe?

Editorial from the Santa Fe New Mexican.com - The notion that Santa Fe -- city and county together -- should explore the ownership of an independent municipal power utility is intriguing. Right now, Santa Fe and most of the county receive their electricity from Public Service Co. of New Mexico. Most of that power, as we know, is generated from coal-fired power plants in northwestern New Mexico. Plants, by the way, that are known for the pollutants they emit as much as the jobs they bring to the Four Corners area. Local citizens think there might be a different way to bring electricity to Santa Fe and more than 1,500 people have signed a petition asking the City Council to study the idea -- a renewable-energy municipal power utility owned by the public. That's a decent number of signatures, considering driving force, local builder Faren Dancer, just started gathering names on Jan. 12. Adding steam to the effort is this news from Santa Fe County Commissioner Kathy Holian: she says the joint city and county Regional Planning Authority has allocated $25,000 to study the idea. It's not unheard of for cities to own utilities. Santa Fe, for example, owns its own water company. Up on the Hill, Los Alamos County manages electricity, gas, water and waste for residents. Under that arrangement, PNM still owns the power lines, which Los Alamos then leases. The benefit to consumers is that the county can control its rates more closely, as well as push harder to develop alternative energy. Of course, the proposal is just in its infancy, but we hope to see both governments -- as well as the citizens who are backing the concept -- work hard to see whether Santa Fe is the right place for a citizen-owned electric company. Read more

Columbus, New Mexico struggles after gun-smuggling case wipes out leadership

From the El Paso Times.com - By Reyes Mata III - COLUMBUS -- When federal agencies raided this small New Mexico town last year to stop a gun-smuggling operation they allege was sending guns into Mexico's drug war, they left a trail of indictments that gutted city leadership -- including the police department -- and turned residents leery of having outside law enforcement patrol it. "There were two police early this morning giving tickets, making people late for work," complained Alejandro Zapata, a resident of Columbus for more than 20 years. He pointed to a street corner where, he said, New Mexico State Police were handing out citations last week. "People said somebody put out a report that we needed more police. We don't. We have our policeman, and it's Ojeda. We don't need any more than him." The Ojeda to whom he is referring is Jose Ojeda, a corporal from the Luna County Sheriff's Department who, in July, was reassigned from Deming to patrol Columbus, about 50 miles to the south. Ojeda has been patrolling the estimated 750 homes in Columbus since July 7. That's the day the Village Council voted to dissolve its police department after Police Chief Angelo Vega, Mayor Eddie Espinoza, and trustee Blas Gutierrez were among 11 defendants charged in an 84-count federal indictment that ultimately linked them to the gun-smuggling operation. Read more

Guònián Hǎo - Chinese Year of the Dragon

Everyone at News New Mexico wants to wish you a Happy New Year in this Chinese Year of the Dragon.

Amendment prevents state employees who serve in the Roundhouse from getting paid while serving

From Capitol Report New Mexico.com - One month after an outburst by Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton made national headlines and drew further attention to state employees receiving pay if they also serve in the legislature, three Republican state representatives introduced a bill in the House of Representatives on Monday (Jan. 23) that would prevent any employee who receives a state salary to get paid while attending to legislative duties. Reps. Dennis Roch (R-Texico), Rep. Jim Smith (R-Sandia Park) and Rep. Tim Lewis (R-Rio Rancho) — who are all teachers — co-sponsored House Joint Resolution 18. The amendment would not just affect teachers or school system employees but apply to all employees who work in state agencies. In order for the bill to become state law, it would not just have to pass both chambers of the Roundhouse but also go before the state’s voters as a constitutional amendment. “It’s about fairness,” said Rep. Lewis, who announced earlier this month that he is taking a leave of absence without pay from his duties as a high school business teacher during the 30-day legislative session as well as abstaining from receiving pay from his job with the Albuquerque Public Schools system for any other legislative-related responsibilities. “I want to show I’m a fighter for the taxpayers,” said Lewis, who told reporters Monday he estimates refusing his salary for the 30-day session will cost him about $5,000. Read more

Judge Orders Bailout of Union-Dominated School District

From Big Government.com - These days a lot of school budgets are being held together by the accounting equivalents of bailing wire and duct tape. But one Pennsylvania school district is so broke that it needs the state to provide the wire and the tape. The Chester Upland School District began this week with only $100,000 in its savings account, and had no way of meeting its $1 million payroll – that is, until a judge ordered the state to give the district a $3.2 million advance in its allowance, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The money will allow the teachers to be paid and the lights to remain on, at least for a few more weeks. The district is on track to be $20 million in debt by the end of the school year. What’s causing Chester Upland’s financial meltdown? According to school officials, the state has been illegally giving some of the district’s money to charter schools. State officials say the law requires it to fund the schools where students actually attend, and many choose to attend charter schools. A judge is expected to settle the dispute next month. While the district might win its case in court, it seems destined to lose in the court of public opinion. Since 2006, Chester Upland’s enrollment has dropped by almost 1,000 students. During that same time, the district has increased its workforce by 145 employees, and its budget by $28 million, reports the PhillyBurbs.com. Members of the local teachers union have pledged to keep working “as long as they are individually able … even if they are not paid.” While that makes for a nice press release, it appears that none the district’s three school employee unions have agreed to open their contracts and offer any concessions to help the district survive. Read more

N.M. Ranchers Sue Forest Service Over Grazing Rights

From washingtonexaminer.com- A group of ranchers and one county said Monday that they are suing the U.S. Forest Service over its decision to limit grazing on historic land grant areas in northern New Mexico.The group of Hispanic ranchers and Rio Arriba County officials contend the agency is trying to push them from land that has been ranched by their families for centuries. They say at stake is a piece of Hispanic culture and the economic viability of several northern New Mexico communities that depend on access to surrounding lands for everything from grazing to fire wood. "Without the ability to access and utilize natural resources, our communities are drying up. We're not economically sustainable. We're losing our customs and our culture," said David Sanchez of the Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association.  More News New Mexico

Wells Fargo Completes Financing for Solar Project

From marketwatch.com -Wells Fargo & Company announced today that equity financing is complete for a 53.5 megawatt (MW) multi-site solar project in New Mexico. The 53.5MW solar project, one of largest photovoltaic solar power projects in the U.S., was fully activated in December. The multi-site solar project was made possible through a power purchase agreement between SunEdison and Southwestern Public Service Company which was previously announced in September.  More News New Mexico

Senate Democrats to Introduce Jobs Bills

Michael Sanchez
SANTA FE--The Senate Majority Caucus released the Helping Incentivize Real Employment (HIRE) Initiative, a collection of eleven bills that will help a broad range of small businesses in New Mexico revitalize the economy. This plan will take big steps to create jobs across New Mexico.
Some of the bills that will, and have been, offered from the members came from the bi partisan Jobs Initiative Group which was started by Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez and brought together members of the business community, as well as several chambers of commerce and labor leaders.
Tim Keller
“We need to make sure that we listen to the needs of the business community and the jobs group was an excellent way of doing that,” Senator Sanchez said. “We were able to bring everyone to the table, and when we do that, good ideas emerge.”
This broad based initiative draws a distinction to other jobs bills that would offer businesses only small amounts of help-- not enough to add any new employees or make meaningful improvements to their businesses. This initiative also broadens the scope of economic impact in contrast to narrowly constructed bills that constitute little more than giveaways to certain companies. Read rest of story here: News New Mexico


Obama kills Keystone while defending energy record

Marita Noon
Within 24 hours of rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline project—angering unions, industry, and Republicans, President Obama released his first campaign ad touting his record on energy. The ad cites a study from the Brookings Institute and implies that President Obama has created 2.7 million jobs in green energy, a number that is “expanding rapidly.” Next the ad brags about the fact that for the first time in 13 years, America is now less than 50% dependent on foreign oil. Both numbers have some truth—but both have little to do with the President's efforts.
First, the jobs number. 2.7 million green jobs is the total number of green jobs in the economy—many of which existed long before President Obama took office. Additionally, according to a Reason fact check, while the 2.7 million number may be “clean” jobs, only a small fraction of that number are actually in the “green energy” industry: 140,000 according to Brookings—and this was before thousands of jobs were lost at Solyndra, Stirling Energy, Range Fuels, or other green energy companies that have gone under in the past few months. Read the rest of the column here: News New Mexico


Chevy Dealers Revolt Against Obama's Car

NewsNM note (Spence) - Fresh off the latest story of Solyndra employees thowing away solar parts the government spent millions of dollars on, comes news of another vision of a prosperous future offered by President Obama. This vision has turned into a economic mirage. It seems that the car the president has praised repeatedly the Chevy Volt is being flat out rejected by car dealers.
Automotive News - DETROIT -- Some Chevrolet dealers are turning down Volts that General Motors wants to ship to them, a potential stumbling block as GM looks to accelerate sales of the plug-in hybrid. For example, consider the New York City market. Last month, GM allocated 104 Volts to 14 dealerships in the area, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Dealers took just 31 of them, the lowest take rate for any Chevy model in that market last month. That group of dealers ordered more than 90 percent of the other vehicles they were eligible to take, the source said. In Clovis, Calif., meanwhile, Brett Hedrick, dealer principal at Hedrick's Chevrolet, sold 10 Volts last year. But in December and January he turned down all six Volts allocated to him under GM's "turn-and-earn" system, which distributes vehicles based on past sales volumes and inventory levels. GM's "thinking we need six more Volts is just crazy," Hedrick says. "We've never sold more than two in a month." Hedrick says he usually takes just about every vehicle that GM allocates to him. Read full story here and watch CNN video here: News New Mexico


Martinez goes to Albuquerque today to talk jobs

Susana Martinez
Today Governor Susana Martinez will address the “Creating Jobs, Getting New Mexico Working Again” luncheon hosted by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber, the Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance, the Economic Forum of Albuquerque, the Greater Belen Chamber, and the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber. Governor Martinez will address members of the business communities from Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Valencia Counties and discuss her job creation proposals for the current legislative session.
Governor Martinez will address members of the business communities from Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Valencia Counties and discuss her job creation proposals for the current legislative session.


King Wants More Awareness of Human Trafficking

Gary King
KOB TV - Dramatic ads on buses and billboards across the state are part of an effort by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King's office to educate law enforcement and the public about human trafficking.
The ads have pictures of men, women and children and declarations like "Stop Slavery," and "We are not for sale." The scope of human trafficking is largely unknown in many states. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Gabrielle Giffords is Resigning

Gabrielle Giffords
L.A. Times - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who came to symbolize hope and resilience as she tenaciously recovered from a gunshot wound to the head during the last year, announced she would resign from Congress to concentrate on her recovery.
Giffords, 41, announced her plans in a stylized video on YouTube and Facebook and in a Twitter post. Her decision, effective this week, clears the way for candidates in both parties to stake a claim on her competitive border district. By state law, her replacement will be chosen in a special election.
"I have more work to do on my recovery," Giffords says in the video, appearing in a crisp red jacket and without the glasses she has sported recently. She says she is doing what is best for the state.
"I'm getting better. Every day my spirit is high," she says, speaking directly, deliberately and somewhat haltingly. "I will return, and we will work together for Arizona." Read full story here: News New Mexico