Mayor: City Council's decision on Paseo could cost ABQ residents $10 million in federal money

Mayor Richard Berry
From - By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4  - Mayor Richard Berry said the City Council’s failure to vote with a super majority on the passage of a $50 million bond puts a matching $10 million federal grant dead on arrival. Originally, the Paseo project was going to be funded as follows: $50 million from the City of Albuquerque; $30 million from the State of New Mexico; $10 million from a federal TIGER grant.  But Mayor Berry said with the loss of the federal funding, the city may now increase its share to $60 million to ensure the completion of the project. The city does not have that kind of cash on hand, so it must borrow.  Payments for a $60 million bond would equal about $3.6 million payments each year for the next 22 years. Originally the city was planning to use $3 million to pay off a $50 million loan for the next 22 years.  The City would have to find an additional $600,000 every year if it chooses to bond $60 million versus $50 million. The payments would come from the city’s operating budget - which also pays for salaries, travel, office supplies, and the like. Whatever the new bond amount will be, voters will now have to approve any borrowing. Also in a press conference Tuesday, Berry gave documents to reporters showing that Councilors Debbie O’Malley, Rey Garduno, and Isaac Benton have a history of roadblocking progress with the Paseo project. The three councilors, who have been blasted by the mayor’s office for a week, told KOB-TV Monday night that the mayor only has himself to blame for any roadblocks in building the Paseo del Norte interchange because he chose to bundle other projects with the infrastructure project during the 2011 municipal elections. Read more


Company Co-Owner: call it Lean Finely Textured Beef

Regina Roth talks Lean Finely Textured Beef
From - The company that makes "pink..." is suspending operations at three of four plants where the low-cost beef filler is made amid a public outcry over concern about the ingredient. Beef Products Inc. spokesman Craig Letch on Monday told The Associated Press about the operations suspensions at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa ahead of a public announcement about the plan. The company's plant at its Dakota Dunes, S.D., headquarters will continue operations. The ammonia-treated ingredient known by the industry as "lean, finely textured beef" has been used for years but recently became a target of activists seeking to have it banned from supermarkets and school lunches. The U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to allow school districts to stop using it. Some retail chains have pulled products containing it. The company said its entire operation is at risk and thousands of jobs are at stake. BPI co-owner Regina Roth defended her family's innovation -- in front of dozens of employees at their Nebraska plant. The company called the product lean finely textured beef. Read more

PRC debates coal plant retrofit

From the Santa Fe New - by Staci Matlock - The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission on Tuesday debated a resolution on a plan to clean up emissions from the state's largest coal-fired power generating plant, but didn't vote on it.  Three of the five commissioners said they opposed the resolution because it didn't consider other options for reducing haze blamed on the northwestern New Mexico facility. San Juan Generating Station provides the bulk of electricity for 2 million customers of Public Service Company of New Mexico and eight other partners, including Los Alamos County and Tri-State Electric Cooperative. The 1,800-megawatt plant is more than four decades old and employs almost 400 people, many of them Navajo. Several hundred more work at a nearby coal mine.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered PNM and its partners to retrofit the San Juan Generating Station to reduce nitrogen oxides in the emissions that contribute to haze.  The EPA wants the companies to use a technology that PNM says has an estimated cost of at least $750 million, an expense that would have an impact on utility customers. PNM and the state Environment Department are advocating for a different technology that would still meet federal requirements, but at about one-tenth of the cost.  The state Public Regulation Commission doesn't have any authority over the issue, but District 5 Commissioner Ben Hall wanted to send a message to President Barack Obama: Order the EPA to back off and work with PNM on less-expensive alternatives for reducing the haze.  Hall introduced a resolution asking commissioners to support the less expensive state plan for retrofitting the San Juan Generating Station. He said the EPA's insistence on a more expensive technology for reducing haze will ultimately hurt ratepayers. Read more

Ruidoso Down Race Track disputes NYT horse racing story

From the Ruidoso News - by Mike Curran and Jim Kalvelage - The horse racing industry is in the spotlight, with a focus that includes New Mexico and Ruidoso Downs, following a lengthy page one article in the Sunday edition of The New York Times. The report pointed a finger at the racing industry in New Mexico and stated that the Ruidoso Downs Race Track had the highest rate of incidents involving horses in 2011, at 14.1 incidents per 1,000 starts. Tuesday, in a prepared statement, Ruidoso Downs Race Track refutes The New York Times article's claim that Ruidoso Downs had the nation's highest rate of incidents where horses broke down or showed signs of injury. Ruidoso Downs Race Track President Bruce Rimbo said he disagreed with the way the Times analyzed the data. "While Ruidoso Downs Race Track finds any injury a horse suffers unacceptable, the facts show that nearly 16,000 horses started over the three-year period The New York Times studied and just three one-hundredths of one percent of those horses encountered fatal injuries," Rimbo said. "In a perfect world, there would be no injuries but in the world of sport that is just not a reality." The statement from the track noted Terry Chiplin, an official with a high-altitude training center in Colorado, found higher elevation competition can create problems for the unprepared, such as fatigue, dehydration, headaches and difficulty in breathing. The statement added that altitude can make a big difference and comparing a track at 7,000 feet to lower elevation race tracks is like comparing apples to oranges.  "In cases where horses need additional assistance, Ruidoso (Downs) personnel are there to help immediately," Rimbo said. "This may result in a chart caller's (person who makes a record of how horses performed in a race) comment appearing negative yet often times those same horses will come back in their next start just a few weeks later after acclimating to the altitude and perform at a very high level," Rimbo said.

Marco Rubio backs 'Stand Your Ground' law

Senator Marco Rubio
From the -  As a Florida House member, Marco Rubio voted to enact his state’s Stand Your Ground policy — the controversial law now at the heart of the Trayvon Martin case. As a senator, Rubio says he’s still standing behind the law — at least for now.  “I voted for the law because the law had sound rationale, and I think it still does,” the Republican freshman and prospective vice presidential candidate told POLITICO on Tuesday. The law has come under fresh scrutiny in the wake of Martin’s killing, who was shot by George Zimmerman, a local man who has indicated he acted in self defense after he shot the unarmed 17-year-old last month. Police have cited Florida’s Stand Your Ground law as a reason why charges have not been filed against Zimmerman, spawning state and federal investigations. Rubio says he doesn’t know anything about the facts of the case other than what he’s gleaned from media reports, adding that it’s premature to debate whether the seven-year-old law needs to be overhauled in light of the tragedy. “I think it’s important we let the Justice Department, the FBI, the state attorneys and everyone else down there [investigate],” Rubio said in the Capitol Thursday. “Let’s wait for the facts to come back before we have a debate on whether a law should be changed.” His comments echo those of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, but Rubio has longer ties to the law than most of his colleagues. Rubio, who later became speaker of the state House, voted as a member of the body in 2005 to send the legislation to then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed it into law. Read more

Wednesday guide to the health-care case

From the Economist - Two issues for Wednesday:  First issue: "SEVERABILITY" Question: If the individual mandate falls, must the rest of the law fall too? The court will devote 90 minutes to this argument. Background: The mandate is the most prominent piece of Mr Obama’s health reform. However the law is gargantuan. Its 2,700 pages cover everything from calorie counts on menus to drug rebates for the elderly. Mr Obama’s argument: Should the mandate be overturned, only two other provisions should fall with it. The reform requires insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions and bars them from hiking fees for the ill. Mr Obama’s lawyers concede that the mandate is necessary for these requirements to work—without the mandate, individuals would simply wait until they got sick to buy insurance. This would prove disastrous for insurers. However the rest of the law should stand. The states may not fight provisions of the health law that do not apply to them. Challengers’ argument: Health reform sought to achieve near universal health coverage without increasing the deficit. The mandate was the main way to do this, but the entire law served this goal. If the mandate falls, the entire law should fall, too. Court-appointed lawyer’s argument: The Supreme Court appointed an impartial lawyer, Bartow Farr, to argue that the rest of the law should remain if the mandate falls. Mr Farr contends that the provisions outside of the mandate are “perfectly lawful”. Congress would rather have the law without the mandate than no health law at all. Analysis: The insurance industry supported the law because of the mandate. The requirement that individuals buy insurance balanced the myriad, onerous rules on insurers. The Eleventh Circuit’s ruling was insurers’ worst nightmare. The appellate court struck down the mandate but upheld every other part of the law.
Second issue for Wednesday: MEDICAID Question: Is Congress’s expansion of Medicaid unduly coercive to the states? The court will hear one hour of arguments on this topic. Background: Medicaid provides health care to the poor. It is paid for by both the federal government and the states. However Washington foots most of the bill, providing 50% to 83% of funding for each state’s Medicaid programme. Beginning in 2014, the health law will expand Medicaid to childless adults with incomes of up to 138% of the federal poverty line. Mr Obama’s argument: This is not the first time that the federal government has expanded eligibility for Medicaid. The government may attach requirements to the aid that it provides. Strike down this expansion as coercive and other federal requirements would be similarly vulnerable. Besides, the federal government will pay for most of the expansion—100% in 2014, tapering to 90% by 2020. Challengers’ argument: The law’s expansion of Medicaid is unduly coercive. Technically, states could refuse the government’s new terms for Medicaid. But the federal government’s support for Medicaid is so large that refusing Washington’s help is impractical. States have no choice but to acquiesce to the government’s terms, even though they are strapped for cash. Analysis: No lower court sided with the states, making this challenge the least likely to succeed. However the Supreme Court surprised observers by agreeing to hear this issue in the first place, so another surprise may come in June.

Arizona lawmakers push to take over federal lands

From - Another "sagebrush rebellion" is spreading through legislatures in Arizona and other Western states with a series of formal demands that the federal government hand over title to tens of millions of acres of forests, ranges and other public lands. Arizona could claim as much as 25 million acres -- all federal land in the state except military bases, Indian reservations, national parks and some wilderness areas. If the federal government fails to comply by the end of 2014, the states say they will begin sending property-tax bills to Washington, D.C. While the original sagebrush rebellion grew out of conflicts over management of federal lands, often as specific as keeping a forest road open, the new takeover movement owes more to "tea party" politics, with a strong focus on reducing the scope of federal influence and opening land to more users. Read more:

NM Supreme Court Considers Sex Offender Definition

From -If a man convicted of a sex crime in California moves to New Mexico, is he required to register as a sex offender? The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in such a case, a clash between the state's law enforcement system and a 65-year-old man named Bruce D. Hall. Hall pleaded no contest 13 years ago in California to the misdemeanor of "annoying or molesting a child." New Mexico prosecutors say he touched the genitals of three young boys when lifting them. California still lists Hall on its sex offender registry, but says his whereabouts are unknown. In fact, Hall moved to Las Cruces, where he did not register as a sex offender. This led the district attorney's staff in Dona Ana County to charge him in 2008 with a fourth-degree felony and to try to compel him to register as a sex offender. Hall lost in district court, then appealed and won his case. The New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that he did not have to register as a sex offender in New Mexico because the state has no equivalent law to the one he was convicted of breaking in California. Now it is the state that is appealing, asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to reverse that decision.

NM County Pulls Out of Wolf Program

From -Officials in one southern New Mexico county are withdrawing their support for the federal government's effort to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest. Sierra County Manager Janet Porter Carrejo sent a brief letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month outlining the county's position.  She says residents don't feel the reintroduction program is worthy of the federal money spent so far.  More than $12 million has been spent since 2003, and a recent survey puts the wolf population in New Mexico and Arizona at about 58. Porter Carrejo says residents believe there are more wolves in the wild.  The state of New Mexico withdrew its support from the program last summer. The federal government has been working since 1998 to reintroduce the wolves. The animals were added to the federal endangered species list in 1976.

NM Activists Ramping Up Demand for ALB. Police Probe

From -New Mexico activists have ramped up their call for a Justice Department probe into Albuquerque police after officers shot and killed two men last week, bringing the total of such shootings to 18 in just over two years. They aren't alone in demanding federal investigations into local authorities in the wake of recent high-profile police shootings. Civil rights activists in several cities across the nation — from Las Vegas to Omaha, Neb. — also have called for U.S. Department of Justice intervention, saying local police are using excessive and deadly force far too often.  More News New Mexico

State Implements New Rules Aimed at Leaking Fuel Tanks

From -Water and gasoline do not mix and the state of New Mexico wants to keep it that way. The state has new rules governing the storage of petroleum fuel in hopes of preventing leaks that can contaminate ground water.  The Daily Times reports staffers at the New Mexico Environment Department will work with owners and operators to correct serious violations as soon as possible.
The state will red tag tanks, post a notice at the facility that it may not receive any delivery or deposit of fuel and list the facility on a delivery prohibition list on an environment department website if there's a failure to comply with rules.

SIC to discuss Growstone, Earthstone investments

New Mexico Business WeeklyThe New Mexico State Investment Council has faced a lot of media flack in recent weeks over investments in two homegrown companies, Earthstone International and Growstone Inc. The state has an $11 million stake in Earthstone, and $2.5 million in Growstone. Earthstone hasn’t received any new SIC money since 2008. But Sun Mountain Capital, which manages the SIC’s $90 million Co-Investment Fund, contributed to a $3 million round of financing for Growstone this year. a company that was spun out of Earthstone in 2008 as a separate business. The Growstone investment drew attention from the Rio Grande Foundation, which published critical reports in 2009 alleging close political ties between Earthstone founders and former Gov. Bill Richardson might have encouraged the SIC to invest. This month, the Foundation’s online news site, the New Mexico Watchdog, published another series of blogs criticizing the SIC investment and Earthstone’s apparent difficulties in the market. Read More News New Mexico


Veteran Luevano Target of "Progress Now"

Johnny Luevano
KOB TV - Accusations are flying and a criminal investigation is now underway on allegations that a retired Marine has committed voter and election fraud. Progress Now New Mexico, a liberal non-profit group, alleges Republican Johnny Luevano committed a crime by voting and running for office in a district where he doesn't live.
Luevano disputes those allegations, stating his active duty military status gives him the right to vote even if he isn’t physically living in an address. Luevano filed to run against Antonio “Moe” Maestas in the New Mexico House of Representatives, District 16. Soon after, Progress Now NM released information stating Luevano was ineligible to run for office in that district. Luevano purchased a lot near Atrisco and Iliff NW five years ago and began construction on a new home in April 2011. The City of Albuquerque issued a certificate of occupancy on March 12, 2012, but according to Progress Now New Mexico the date to establish residency was March 6. Luevano also registered to vote at that address in 2011, however at the time, only a dirt lot without a home existed. Luevano, who retired after twenty years of active duty service in the Marine Corps, does not dispute the dates. "I bought this property over five years ago and have been paying property taxes since then," Luevano said. "The intention and the goal was to get into the house by Christmas." But, Luevano said there were delays in construction and he had to wait on the City of Albuquerque to issue a certificate of occupancy. Read full story here: News New Mexico


Voters will decide on Paseo/I-25 funding

From - Albuquerque voters will now decide whether the city should spend $50 million on the Paseo Del Norte and I-25 construction project. Monday night during a special meeting, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Debbie O'Malley and Rey Garduno blocked the city council from deciding the funding issue itself, and instead sent it to voters. Councilors said residents will vote in November. But the city's Chief Administrative Office bashed the councilors. Rob Perry said the delay cost the city a big federal grant. "Unfortunately the ugly face of politics here in New Mexico, we've all seen, and we have three councilors that are going to cost the city taxpayers about ten million dollars," Perry told KOB Eyewitness News 4 after the vote. Councilor Benton called Perry's comments "ridiculous." He said federal leaders won't base the grant money on the council's decision. And some councilors think they will still get the money. Benton said while he supports the project, he doesn't like that money is coming from gross receipts taxes, saying they support city services. He thinks city services will suffer. Read more


UTEP alumnus and veteran ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson visits

From the El Paso Times - by by Ramón Rentería - Veteran ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson predicted Monday that moderate voters will decide the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. "The issues this fall will be basically how to get the country moving again," Donaldson said. "It's the people in the middle who elect presidents." Donaldson, a distinguished alumnus of the University of Texas at El Paso, addressed an estimated 250 students and guests attending UTEP's Centennial Lecture Series. He said moderate voters would have a bigger impact on the outcome of the presidential election than conservative voters looking for the perfect candidate. Donaldson, 78, known for his tenacious questioning of presidents and political leaders over the years, has been on the front lines of American history in the almost 50 years that he has worked as a newsman in Washington, D.C. He covered the historic 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon and was just feet away when John Hinckley Jr. tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981. Donaldson also predicted Mitt Romney will emerge as the Republican nominee to challenge President Barack Obama. Donaldson, born in El Paso, grew up in Chamberino, N.M. He started his broadcasting career in El Paso radio before branching out into television. Read more

557 LANL workers accept buyout

From the Santa Fe New Mexican - by Roger Snodgrass - Los Alamos National Laboratory announced today that 557 people will leave their jobs under a voluntary separation program. The number falls within the range of 400-800 employees lab officials said they needed to reduce the likelihood of involuntary layoffs.  With some job categories excluded, most of the approximately 7,600 employees in the regular workforce were eligible to apply for the separation package, which provides up to 39 weeks of severance pay. The largest group, 258, were in the professional categories, including finance, information technology and records management, 152 were in research and development. There were 74 manager, 59 technicians and 14 support employees.  Read more

Is Gary King a "Dead Man Walking" for governor?

Attorney General Gary King
From New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan - The blog readers have definite opinions on whose up and shoe down on the New Mexico political scene and today we bring you some of their pointed observations, starting with the question: "Is Gary King A Dead Man Walking?" Our Friday blog in which we mentioned some of the possible 2014 Dem Guv candidates--including Attorney General Gary King, drew this email response:  Joe, you weren't really serious talking about Attorney General Gary King being a gubernatorial candidate in 2014, were you? I understand that two weeks, much less two years, is a long time in politics, but Gary has buried himself for any future statewide or federal run. He's the figurative "dead man walking." The people have a short memory, but Gary has sat on his butt for six years and generally been an "attorney general in being." he had a terrific opportunity and it is, for the most part, gone. Pity. Read more


Duran OKs candidates; Garcia to sue

From - by Heath Haussamen - Following the advice of the New Mexico attorney general, New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran today certified the candidacies of at least a dozen hopefuls who improperly left the number of the district or division they’re seeking off their nominating petitions.
Duran’s decision came after New Mexico Assistant Attorney General Tania Maestas sent her a letter Friday advising that, “In the absence of any evidence of fraud or bad faith, it is unlikely that a court would require strict adherence to the statutory requirements at the cost of denying a significant number of voters their constitutional right to participate in the election process.” Read more

Ben Stein Column three years ago is still fresh

From the July 2009 American Spectator - by Ben Stein - Why is President Barack Obama in such a hurry to get his socialized medicine bill passed?  Because he and his cunning circle realize some basic truths:  The American people in their unimaginable kindness and trust voted for a pig in a poke in 2008. They wanted so much to believe Barack Obama was somehow better and different from other ultra-leftists that they simply took him on faith.  They ignored his anti-white writings in his books. They ignored his quiet acceptance of hysterical anti-American diatribes by his minister, Jeremiah Wright.  They ignored his refusal to explain years at a time of his life as a student. They ignored his ultra-left record as a "community organizer," Illinois state legislator, and Senator.  The American people ignored his total zero of an academic record as a student and teacher, his complete lack of scholarship when he was being touted as a scholar.  Now, the American people are starting to wake up to the truth. Barack Obama is a super likeable super leftist, not a fan of this country, way, way too cozy with the terrorist leaders in the Middle East, way beyond naïveté, all the way into active destruction of our interests and our allies and our future.  The American people have already awakened to the truth that the stimulus bill -- a great idea in theory -- was really an immense bribe to Democrat interest groups, and in no way an effort to help all Americans. Read column