Court requires ignition interlocks

People convicted of driving under the influence of prescription or illegal drugs must have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicles as required by New Mexico’s drunken driving law, although the devices don’t detect the use of drugs, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.
The court’s precedent-setting ruling overturned a decision last year by a district judge in Santa Fe who determined that the ignition interlock requirement was unconstitutional for someone whose impairment was caused by drugs, rather than alcohol.
An interlock can only detect the presence of alcohol. Drivers must blow into the devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting or continuing to operate if someone’s blood-alcohol level exceeds a certain amount.
New Mexico has required ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of DWI since 2005.
Linda Atkinson, executive director of the DWI Resource Center, applauded the court’s ruling and said Thursday it will help in New Mexico’s fight against impaired drivers.
“It’s true that we know that an ignition interlock doesn’t detect drug use, but we also know a lot of times there’s dual use. It’s not just drugs people are using. Sometimes it’s alcohol with drugs,” Atkinson said in an interview...


Governor kicks off healthy kids program

Susana Martinez
 Gov. Susana Martinez wants to make New Mexico's kids healthier.

  She was at Kirtland Elementary School in Albuquerque Thursday to kick off a new program that teaches kids better habits.

 The program, developed by the Department of Health, is called the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Kids Challenge. It asks all of the state's third graders for 21 days to eat five fruits and vegetables, limit television and computer use to two hours, get at least one hour of physical activity and drink plenty of H2O.

 All New Mexico 3rd grade teachers will receive an activity book that promotes the health habits, along with a 21-day challenge tracker to help kids document their activities.

 According to the Department of Health, 15 percent of New Mexico kindergarteners and 22 percent of New Mexico 3rd graders are obese.



Santa Fe wants public input on Zozobra

Following a barrage of complaints about this year's Zozobra celebration, Santa Fe leaders will meet with event's organizers.

The city said it wants to ensure residents are happier following next year's celebration. The city provides about $50,000 in subsidized services for the even, such as police, fire and solid waste.
"They can probably lose some of the grand choreography, make it a little more simple and really make it as inclusive as we can to the entire community," City Council member Carmichael Dominguez said.
A big concern this year was the $20 ticket price. Dominguez said the city will push the Kiwanis Club to advertise discounted tickets better so everyone has access to the reduced price.
"The fact that it is expensive for some people, that some people don't have access to it. I think some of the concern is making sure we have as much access to the event from the community," Dominguez said.
In an online petition, residents were also upset with the nontraditional music, lack of family picnic areas and having to leave strollers at the gate.
"This year seemed to be different. The lines were longer. People were expressing their concerns more this time than any other time that I know of," Dominguez said.
Dominguez said city leaders want to influence next year's event to be better.
"It would be best for the City Council right now to listen. We have heard from the public. We now need to listen to the Kiwanis Club; we need to listen to the fiesta council as well," Dominguez said.
The Kiwanis Club was supposed to have its annual debriefing meeting with the City's Park Division today, but that meeting was cancelled. There is no word yet on when it will be rescheduled or the date of the mayor's meeting with the organizers.

Grisham Caught in Open Meetings Act Violations

ALBUQUERQUE -- In a troubling sign that Michelle Lujan Grisham was engaging in activities that are specifically prohibited by the Open Meetings Act, today, Janice Arnold-Jones, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (NM-01) released a statement regarding an Albuquerque Journal report that three Democratic members of Bernalillo County Commission colluded on a union request letter to the County Manager Tom Zdunek:
Lujan-Grisham with Barack Obama
"It is deeply troubling that in the weeks before Michelle Lujan Grisham resigned from the Bernalillo County Commission, she was involved with two other Democratic Commissioners in activities that were at best unethical, and at worst violations of the Open Meetings Act.“ As an attorney, Michelle Lujan Grisham knows that state law prohibits “rolling quorums” because they are tantamount to cutting backroom deals. For Lujan Grisham to plead ignorance to a reporter’s question rings hollow. It is unacceptable for elected officials to abuse the public trust in pursuit of political gain, ever,” said Arnold-Jones. As someone who wants to represent this district in Congress, there are questions about this activity that Lujan Grisham must answer. If this was such an urgent matter, why wasn’t this request placed on the official agenda? Why did she join two other commissioners to violate the Open Meetings Act? Voters in our district have a right to know. Participating in a “rolling quorum” shows Lujan Grisham’s disrespect for transparency and honesty in government at all levels. It’s time for her to come clean,” said Arnold-Jones.
Grisham a supporter of Obamacare and a variety of tax increases is expected to cast her first vote in Congress for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker if she wins her race in New Mexico House District #1.


PEC rejects 8 out of 9 charter school applications

Just one new state-chartered school will open in New Mexico next year, after the Public Education Commission this week denied eight of the nine applications seeking approval.

The approved charter, Health Leadership High School, will be in Albuquerque’s South Valley and will focus on helping students who have struggled in traditional school settings get on track to careers in health professions. It will open next year.

Of the eight school applications that were denied, four had links to out-of-state groups or companies. Those applications were particularly scrutinized by certain public school advocacy groups and by the Legislative Education Study Committee, which raised the spectre of back-door privatization and the loss of local control.

 PEC Chair Andrew Garrison said this year’s applications were rejected for a variety of reasons. He said some applicants didn’t seem to have a solid plan, while others were applying to open charters in communities without a clear need.

He said, for example, the PEC rejected two applications for schools that would be based in Taos, because Taos already has numerous charters that aren’t at full enrollment capacity and that offer similar programs to those proposed.Garrison said some commission members were concerned about online schools, particularly those that purchase curriculum from for-profit companies....



AG investigates Rep. Ray Begaye

Investigators at the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office have confirmed they are launching an investigation into state Rep. Ray Begaye’s travel expenses after a KOB4 On Your Side report revealed the lawmaker received two reimbursements for the same trip to Phoenix in December 2010.

The Attorney General's Office said it was notified of Begaye's possible misconduct last week by the Legislative Council Services after 4OYS began making inquiries.

KOB4’s investigation revealed Begaye may have pocketed nearly $1,000 in taxpayer money after he claimed he drove a private vehicle 836 miles to Arizona for a national Conference of State Legislators seminar.But documents obtained by 4OYS indicate that Begaye actually drove a rental car provided by organizers of the conference. Begaye returned $1,800 to the Conference last week, but has not returned any of the nearly $1,000 he pocketed from state taxpayers.

The 4OYS story was the talk of the town on Thursday. Talk radio station 770KKOB invited their listeners to discuss the story on Bob Clark’s morning show. Many callers said they believe Begaye committed a felony. And Clark said the ranking member of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee and Chairman of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee, should consider resigning...



Famous shapes missing at 2012 Balloon Fiesta

Two of the most famous faces at the Albuquerque international Balloon Fiesta won't be in the air this year.

The Fiesta helps pay for special shape balloons to participate in the event, but the organization has already hit the budget limit. That leaves one pilot deflated.
Two popular pieces of ballooning history, which have been fixtures for decades, will be noticeably absent. Chick-I-Boom was the first special shape in the history of the Balloon Fiesta.
"There was always a slot for us. And this year, I'm ready to apply and I find out, there's no room in the inn," pilot David Miller said.
Miller pilots balloons Chic-I-Boom and Uncle Sam. He said he filed all the proper paperwork with Balloon Fiesta a month before the deadline.
"We were told that they had hit their mark, and there was no more budget money to go around," Miller said.
Miller said it would cost him thousands to cover the costs without the Balloon Fiesta's contract.
"They'll probably figure that we chose not to come down, and that's not the case," Miller said.
A Balloon Fiesta spokesperson told Action 7 News that it's not about money. Special shapes have the same budget as years past, and Miller was just too late...


Report: ABQ job growth at zero

Albuquerque's job growth rate is among the slowest in the nation, and a recent study showed the growth rate has been zero since 2008.

"What we've seen now is that things are slowly starting to come back," said Deirdre Firth with the city's Economic Development Division.
During the recession, Albuquerque was hit hard in the construction sector. At one point, a study ranked the Duke City 99 out of 100 metropolitan areas for adding jobs.
"We've even seen growth month by month over the last 12 months in the manufacturing sector, but we know there is still a ways to go," Firth said.
The governor's office said the state as a whole is making impressive strides, citing a recent study showing New Mexico is expected to see jobs increase more than 2 percent over the next year.
While private sector jobs increase, the state has always depended on government jobs, which are declining. City leaders said the goal is to recruit economic based companies.
"Our focus has to be bringing in that new money into the community so that there is more money for all of us to spread around," Firth said.
This week, Mayor Richard Berry is on the East Coast spreading the word, encouraging businesses to expand into New Mexico.
"We are making sure we do everything we can to sell the city of Albuquerque for those outside," Berry said.


Romney campaign pulls NM staffers

In the latest sign that Republicans are failing to gain traction in New Mexico, national party leaders are pulling two key staffers from their effort here to elect Mitt Romney.

State Republican Party spokeswoman Jamie Dickerson confirms the GOP Victory campaign's Hispanic outreach director and the communications director are among those being moved as part of a shift in the Republican National Committee's resources.

Party officials emphasized, however, that all of the state campaign offices will remain open and staffed through the election.

"The GOP Victory organization will maintain a presence in New Mexico and continue talking to voters about how President Obama's economic policies have failed New Mexico and Governor Romney's plan to strengthen the middle class," said RNC spokesman Ted Kwong.

While New Mexico early in the campaign was considered a battleground state for national races, the National Republican Senatorial Committee recently pulled $3 million in television ad time it had reserved on behalf of U.S. Senate candidate Heather Wilson. And a recent poll commissioned for the Albuquerque Journal showed Obama leading Romney 45 percent to 40 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.

Man charged with hog-tying son

Damon Gardner

Police said a Santa Fe father was arrested and charged with child abuse after he tied up his 5-year-old son for misbehaving.
Police said the boy's uncle called authorities after he heard screaming and found the boy tied up.
"I don't see anywhere where it's a justifiable move to place a child in a situation where you're going to cut off circulation, you're going to cause possible lacerations, and you're going to immobilize the child because they're acting out," Santa Fe police Capt. Aric Wheeler said.
Gardner told police he was disciplining his son for punching him and throwing things around. He also said he decided on the approach because he doesn't believe in spanking his child.  


Some decry use of 'forcible rape' in documents

Rape victims and their supporters lashed out at the governor after a state agency proposed a regulation which would add the word "forcible" in front of "rape."

Support groups for rape victims said the new term would have a grave impact on certain victims who apply for state child care funds. They said rape is rape and there is no need to add a qualifier to the term.
"Rape is rape. The attempt to differentiate the different severities of rape only further harm the women and men who have been surviving through this," Adriann Balboa said.
The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department made the proposal in dealing with certain child care services in the state. Gov. Susana Martinez is now under attack over the issue, but she said she agrees with her critics.
"As a former prosecutor the words are redundant. Rape is a forcible sexual crime against an individual," Martinez said. "(Forcible rape) is not a term the state chooses to use in any kind of documents."
The governor said that's how the term is written in federal law. In order to get federal money to help rape victims, Martinez said it needs to be written the way the federal government requires...