State Public Education Department to decide superintendent's contract buyout

From the Ruidoso News - A deal has been reached that would buyout the remaining contract of Ruidoso Municipal School District Superintendent Bea Etta Harris. Harris was placed on paid administrative leave in late May by a divided education board. Tuesday, during the board's September meeting, Matt Closs, who said the Ruidoso schools had problems and offered suggestions, questioned the board on the Harris situation. "I have been led to believe that you're real close to settling with Ms. Harris and we're going to move on," Closs said. "And I understand that you can't divulge information and all that. Am I on the right track there, that an agreement's been reached, we're waiting for the state to approve it?" School board President Devin Marshall responded affirmatively. The New Mexico Public Education Department would decide if the buyout occurs. Harris's contract runs through June 2013. She is paid $115,000 annually. Read more

Gov. taking aim at two Democratic leaders of state legislature

From - Governor Susana Martinez is taking aim at two Democratic leaders of the state legislature, hoping to convince voters to boot them out of office in this fall's general election. The Republican governor's political action committee has sent out fliers attacking Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings of Roswell. The flier said that if the governor is for it, Jennings is against it, and goes on to enumerate high-profile votes where Jennings has voted against the governor's agenda. That includes her attempt to halt the state from issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Jennings, a rancher-farmer-businessman, has represented his Roswell area district for more than 30 years. He presides over the Senate with the support of all the Republican senators in a coalition with moderate Democrats. "What you're going to see is some prominent Republicans in that Jennings district come out in favor of him because he's a conservative Democrat," said politics blogger Joe Monahan of "They don't see the sense in going after him because on just about all of their issues he votes conservative, not 100%, but enough to keep them satisfied." The governor's team is supporting 26-year-old Republican challenger Cliff Pirtle against Jennings. Martinez is also targeting Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Valencia County, a Democrat who is more liberal than Jennings and a staunch opponent of much of the governor's agenda. In that race, Martinez is backing Republican Rep. David Chavez of Los Lunas. "We've had gridlock in Santa Fe for the first couple of years of the Martinez administration," Monahan said. "If these two races are any indication, we're going to have more gridlock, because if Sanchez and Jennings both win as we expect, they're not going to be in much of a happy mood to make compromises with the governor." The governor has demonstrated a willingness to take on political risks plenty of times.  Read more

Decision on changes to “Pit Rule” expected this week

From Capitol Report New Mexico - The “pit rule,” one of the most divisive and debated regulations in New Mexico, might be drastically altered this week as the state’s Oil Conservation Commission is going over proposed changes line by line. On Monday morning (Sept. 24) in Santa Fe, commission members began the long and often tedious process of reviewing the regulation and possible amendments to it as environmentalists who support the rule and oil and gas industry officials who want regulations eased closely watched the proceedings. The 3-person commission is expected to get through the 76-page document by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. There’s plenty at stake. Environmental groups have defended the “pit rule” since it was adopted by the division in 2008 when Bill Richardson, who supported the plan, was governor as a necessary measure to protect ground water and reduce pollution when oil and gas companies drill wells. On the other side, energy groups have complained the rule has hindered economic growth in the state — a stance backed by current Gov. Susana Martinez — and the regulations are often unnecessary. The regulation is called the “pit rule” because it requires producers to deposit the waste and mud that’s extracted from the earth during drilling to be placed in a pit lined with protective coating. In some cases, operators also have to build enclosed tanks to hold produced water and chemicals. The rules also ban pits if they’re close to water wells and require oil and gas producers to haul the waste materials to a different site for disposal. Read more


Flight Attendant's Gun Goes Off (policeman pulls trigger while unloading it) at Philly International Airport

From NBC10 Philadelphia - A day after a flight attendant's gun accidentally went off in Philadelphia International Airport more information about the gun's owner serviced Monday. The regional airline flight attendant who says she forgot she had a loaded weapon in her luggage when she arrived for work Sunday morning faced a disorderly conduct charge while the cop who accidentally fired the handgun was on desk duty Monday. The West Chester, Pa. woman told investigators she forgot she had the loaded .38-caliber handgun in her carry-on as she passed through airport security at Terminal C around 6:50 a.m., according to Philadelphia Police. A US Airways spokesman says that a police officer was called over to check out the gun and that's when it accidentally discharged when he pulled the trigger. The bullet went into a TSA break room where an employee was sitting but luckily no one was injured, police said. Police say that Luby had a license to carry the loaded weapon. Police confiscated the gun and said it was up to the county that issued Luby the permit if she would get the handgun back Read more


Obama and the "Enemy"

Commentary by Jim Spence - 
Nobel Prize Win
In 2008 Senator Obama blamed George Bush directly for America's relations with Muslim radicals in the Middle East. He accused Bush of alienating people that we should be sitting down at the table with for talks. Senator Obama promised that relations with Muslims all around the world would improve the very day he was inaugurated.
As President Obama’s image was burned in effigy along with American flags last week his staffers were busily revising false statements they made on the Sunday talk show circuit about their murdered diplomats in Libya. Lately it hasn’t just been Fox News questioning the credibility of the Obama administration on the riots all over the Middle East. Even the Obama-biased news teams at CNN, CBS, NBC, PBS, and ABC were scratching their heads and asking serious follow-up questions as the lies continued to pile up.
Why would the Obama team lie about atrocities committed by radical Muslims? Does that make any sense? Sure it does. They lied because telling the truth did not fit the Obama campaign narrative of him having already improved relations with radical Islam.
Still, is it really fair in 2012 to actually blame the Obama administration for the deaths of its diplomats? Certainly not.
However, it is very fair to remember the naïve bragging and the hypocritical finger-pointing done by the Obama camp when radical Muslims were killing Americans when George Bush was president. For all the Obama bluster about everything overseas being Bush's fault, Americans have the same enemies now as we did a decade ago. And they are still killing innocent Americans just as we are about to lower our security spending at embassies.
So what is really going on here? It is actually simple. Everything is political at the Obama White House. The Obama camp doesn’t think America's biggest enemy is radical Islam. This explains why Obama can’t find time go to national security briefings. He is too busy out campaigning against the enemy.
Obama won't submit a budget that garners a single vote in his own party. He doesn't have time to fix the fiscal mess approaching on January 1st…. he is too busy out campaigning against his enemy.
Obama can’t meet with his Jobs Task Force members. He is committed to campaigning against his enemy.
Obama could never bring himself to get behind his own debt commission findings. That sort of effort wouldn’t fit with his campaign objectives against his enemy.
Knowing who Senator Obama thought his enemy was explains why he blamed George W. Bush when radical Muslims murdered Americans. Obama wasn't about to blame the killers, he blamed his enemy.
And why would Obama Administration officials go before the cameras in 2012 and blatantly lie about the circumstances leading up to the murder of a U.S. Ambassador for the first time in thirty-three years? The answer is simple. The Obama team lied because it figured lying might make it easier for them to defeat their enemy.
Just this weekend when asked about the deaths of the four Americans killed in Libya, the burning of his own likeness and American flags in countries all over the Middle East, Obama shrugged and called those events a “bump in the road.” Why would he be so dismissive? Because in order for him to defeat his enemy, Obama has to continue to pretend he knows where that road goes. Anyone who gets killed on a road chosen by President just a bump in it.
Understanding Obama is pretty simple. With the Middle East imploding, the U.S. jobs situation worsening and the American economy floundering, our president refuses to sit down and listen to anyone who does not favor a continuation of his efforts to make bigger and bigger government a way of life in America. Can you blame him? After all merely talking to radical Muslims who are bent on murdering Americans is one thing. That makes sense. But sit down and talk with his biggest enemy about fixing the country? That would be crazy. We are at war here!


Rio Grande Gorge bridge project complete

A bridge rehabilitation project at the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos has been completed.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation project which began last summer had sometimes necessitated the closing of a traffic lane and the full closure of the bridge on some nights.
According to a report in The Taos News, the last phase of the work, which was conducted by the NMDOT and the Reiman Corp. of Moriarty, included demolishing the former deck and placing a polyester concrete surface on the bridge.
The report said four hydraulic jacks, capable of lifting 600 tons each, were used to lift the bridge so steel bearings could be replaced. In addition, bridge abutment bearings and pedestal bearings were replaced; concrete columns were stabilized and reinforced; new sidewalks, ramps, curbs and gutters were installed; and hand railings were repainted.
Read the full report here.


Monsoon season ends with little rain

New Mexico's summer monsoon season began with a promise but has now ended with disappointing amounts of rainfall across much of the state.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Frazier tells the Santa Fe New Mexican  that the ingredients needed to bring normal summer rains to the state's mountains and plains just never developed this year. Instead, the main moisture plume stayed to the west in Arizona and California.
The upper elevations in the central and northern mountains had some of the best rains, but the moisture rarely dropped down into the valleys around Santa Fe or Albuquerque. The far western portions of the state fared best, with near normal precipitation.
Most of the state received from 40 percent to 80 percent of the 30-year rolling average.


Absentee voting starts October 9th

New Mexicans can soon start to vote in the general election.
Absentee voting begins Oct. 9, and people can go to their county clerk's office to cast a ballot in person. Voter registration also ends then, making it possible for New Mexicans to register and vote on that same day.
Early voting starts Oct. 20 at alternate polling locations established by the clerks and continues through Nov. 3.
Election Day is Nov. 6 and that's also the deadline for returning absentee ballots.
Four years ago, slightly more than 833,000 people cast ballots in the general election or nearly 70 percent of the state's registered voters.


Ex-NMFA controller indicted

A state grand jury has indicted former New Mexico Finance Authority controller Greg Campbell on 12 felony counts of forgery and securities fraud for his role in a falsified audit scandal while declining to indict the agency’s chief operating officer, John Duff.
Meeting late into the night Thursday, the grand jury did not indict Campbell on a pair of potentially more serious charges — racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering. It declined to indict Duff on any of the charges he faced in connection to the falsified financial statement.
Duff, who was placed on unpaid administrative leave by the agency’s board last month after his arrest, described the charges against him as a “rush to judgment.”
“This thing, I think, was a very badly flawed prosecutorial effort based on misunderstandings and half-understandings,” Duff told the Journal on Friday.
Campbell could not immediately be reached for comment.
Campbell, who had resigned from the finance authority in June, and Duff were arrested in Santa Fe on Aug. 8 with state securities investigators accusing them of “cooking the books” by misleading bond investors about the agency’s financial health.


Study says AFD can't meet response standards

Firefighters aren’t capable of responding to calls within nationally recommended time frames in certain parts of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, especially areas around the city-county border, according to a new study from the international firefighters’ union.
The study, completed earlier this month by the International Association of Firefighters, points to limited manpower, not enough firetrucks and a lack of real-time communication between the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County fire departments as primary reasons for gaps in service.
It recommends new ladder trucks for each of the departments — and staffing them with four firefighters apiece instead of three — additional pumper trucks for AFD and three new battalion commander positions for AFD.
Albuquerque Fire Chief James Breen disputed parts of the union study, saying the department is meeting national safety standards, but agreed with other aspects.
Meanwhile, as this study was being released, another was being completed by a consultant hired by Mayor Richard Berry’s administration to find ways to cut costs in city government. A draft copy of that report from Matrix Consulting Group, obtained by the Journal after a public records request, lays out a different vision of how to move the fire department forward.
As possible places to cut expenses, the Matrix report questions whether AFD is “over-responding” to fires and whether the department needs two paramedics on each rescue unit. It also recommends ending the practice of staffing the AFD dispatch center with sworn firefighters.


Spaceport is built, but who will come?

New Mexico Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson says it will be New Mexico’s Sydney Opera House. Virgin Galactic Chairman Richard Branson has hinted it will host the first of his new brand of lifestyle hotels. And the eclectic hot springs town of Truth or Consequences has been anxiously awaiting all the economic development the nearly quarter-of-a-billion-dollar project is supposed to bring to this largely rural part of southern New Mexico.
But as phase one of Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial port built specifically for sending tourists and payloads into space, is nearing completion, the only new hotel project that has been finalized is a Holiday Inn Express here in Truth or Consequences, about 25 miles away. And three key companies with millions of dollars in payroll have passed on developing operations in the state.
The lagging development, along with competition from heavy hitters like Florida and Texas, is raising new questions about the viability of the $209 billion taxpayer-funded project _ as well as the rush by so many states to grab a piece of the commercial spaceport pie. To date, nine spaceports are planned around the United States, mostly at existing airports, and another 10 have been proposed, according to a recent report from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.
"Right now, the industry is not there to support it," Alex Ignatiev, a University of Houston physics professor and adviser to space companies, said of the list of planned and proposed spaceports across America.
Andrew Nelson, COO of XCOR Aerospace, disagrees, saying "in the next couple to three years, there’s going to be a demonstrative reduction in the cost to launch stuff ... so we are going to have a lot more people coming out of the woodwork."...


Asbestos found in state building

Low levels of asbestos have been found in a state building that's scheduled for an $18 million renovation.
The asbestos has been found in glue used to fasten latillas to ceilings and walls in the Manuel Lujan building in Santa Fe.
KOB Eyewitness News 4 is told the materials can be safely removed and don't pose a health risk now because the glue remains intact.
About 90 employees of taxation and revenue will be relocated to another office by the end of the month and then asbestos abatement will start.
More than 200 workers at the tax agency have already been moved.


12 year-olds planned APS school shooting

Albuquerque Public Schools officials said they foiled two students' plot to open fire at Tony Hillerman Middle School and then kill themselves.

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said school officials uncovered the plot because one of the students was showing suicidal tendencies. The student revealed the plan during a counseling session Thursday morning.
"They had intentions on shooting up the school and then committing suicide," Armenta said.
Armenta said Friday a police report shows they planned to begin shooting during third period on Dec. 12 and then kill themselves.
She said the two 12-year-olds were questioned about the alleged plot by investigators.
"There were some specifics that they both were able to disclose the same information in separate interviews, and, yes, it's absolutely disturbing," Armenta said.
Armenta says school officials concluded the threat could be credible. They plan to expel the 12-year-old boys and make sure they receive counseling and other treatment.
The two students involved are sixth-grade students at Tony Hillerman Middle School. Both have been suspended and further disciplinary action could follow, including expulsion.
The school has informed parents and students about the incident.
Armenta said investigators are not quite sure what might have sparked the alleged plot.