People's climate march wants to change the system, not the weather

Commentary by Marita Noon on - Surely sincere lovers of nature can similarly see that extremists have hijacked the environmental movement, as evidenced by the People’s Climate March last week in New York City and the subsequent UN Climate Summit.
     The People’s Climate March had little to do with the climate. The eco-extremists want to “change the system.” While reported numbers vary, hundreds of thousands of people clogged (and littered) the streets of New York City, with solidarity events held elsewhere around the globe. The parade had grand marshals such as actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, and politicos such as Al Gore and Robert Kennedy, Jr.
      It also had an assortment of anti-Americans and anti-capitalists. Human Events describedthe menagerie this way: “If you’re in favor of totalitarian power, sympathetic to America’s enemies, dubious about representative democracy, hostile to free markets, or you just get turned on by fantasizing about violent revolution, there was a place for you at this march.”
     Marchers carried a banner stating: “Capitalism is the disease, socialism is the cure.” Other signs read: “Capitalism is killing the planet. Fight for a socialist future.”
     Unfortunately, you won’t see any of this in the mainstream media. The New York Timesslide show of the event features a pictorial display of flower wreaths, children, and happy dancers. Read full column

State spends $1M to boost safety at trail, track crossings

From the Santa Fe New Mexican - Cyclist Josh Napier squeezed his brakes and slowed to stop as lights flashed and bells rang near the intersection of the Rail Runner and the Rail Trail at Zia Road on Friday afternoon. For Napier, a visitor from Charlotte, N.C., the bells and lights were enough to alert him of an approaching train.
     But those safety measures didn’t prevent the deaths of two bicycle riders who were struck and killed by Rail Runner trains at crossings in Santa Fe earlier this year. Now the state Department of Transportation plans to spend nearly $1 million on safety gates, flashing lights and other improvements aimed at further protecting both pedestrians and cyclists.
     Last week, crews began installing the new equipment. As Napier waited for the train to pass by Friday, black plastic bags still covered the new lights mounted on a steel pole.
     In April, Suzanne LeBeau, 60, of Santa Fe was cycling along Zia Road when she rode her bike past warning lights and ringing bells and into the front of a train. She died at the scene. Less than two months later, Joseph Salazar, 41, was struck by the Rail Runner when he rode in front of a train on St. Michael’s Drive. He, too, seemed oblivious to the warning signals, according to video of the accident.
     The Transportation Department initially responded to their concerns in August by stationing flaggers at major crossings to warn pedestrians and cyclists, and the trains were forced to slow down. According to a recent Legislative Finance Committee newsletter, the changes added seven to 10 minutes of travel time for each train trip, which might have been the cause of a reported drop in ridership. It is unclear if the new safety equipment will alleviate the delays.
     The $975,000 worth of improvements are being funded by the Federal Highway Administration. More

Balloon Fiesta organizers expect more special shapes

From - Crews are busy getting ready for the 43rd annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and with days left before the event, the pressure is on. Tuesday, crews mowed the acres of grass and other workers pitched tents along vendor row. 
       It takes hundreds of people to prep the park doing everything from scheduling and fixing cracks in roadways and sidewalks. Soon rows of food vendors and sponsors will pop up in the open space. Along with the 548 balloons, organizers said fiestagoers will see more things to eat this year.
      “We actually have added 10 percent more food concession space,” said Jim Garcia, member of the Balloon Fiesta Board of Directors. Volunteers are going to get a lot more training this year. Different pins tell people what that specific volunteer can help them with.
      Garcia said each volunteer has expert knowledge to share with guests. “Our volunteers wanted to be really involved, this is an event that people really take ownership in,” Garcia said.
      The pins designate things like CPR certification and if the volunteer can speak Spanish. Garcia said some volunteers also get a new designation this year -- navigators. Organizers said the number of balloons and pilots is right around the same as last year, though more special shape balloons have entered. More


Pot decriminalization group pushes students to register to vote

From - By: Stephanie Claytor, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Next Tuesday marks National Voter Registration Day, a nationwide effort to make sure people don't miss the deadline to register to vote. In New Mexico, the deadline to register for the Nov. 4 election is Oct. 7.
     The national campaign is looking to register 200,000 people Tuesday. According to, six million people didn't vote in 2008 because they missed the registration deadline or they didn't know how to register.
     Volunteers hope to reduce that number by encouraging people to register at bus stations, stores, sporting events and even concerts. will have representatives at the UNM campus encouraging students to register. They have a table set up near the duck pond. They're pushing students to register so they can weigh in on the advisory question about decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana on the Nov. 4 ballot in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties.
     To register in New Mexico, you must be a resident of New Mexico, a U.S. citizen, not legally declared mentally incapacitated and 18 years or older at the time of the next election. A felon who has completed all of the terms and conditions of their sentencing is eligible to vote. More

NM Supreme Court: Pot advisory questions allowed on Santa Fe, Bernalillo Co. ballots

From - By: Blair Miller, - The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Friday that ballot advisory questions relating to the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties will be allowed on November's ballot.
     The questions are non-binding, meaning they are not meant to create any sort of law at this time. They are simply being used to poll voters on whether or not further action on the matter should be considered.
     The ruling goes against Secretary of State Dianna Duran's rejection of the advisory questions last week, when she wrote to the county commissions that "neither a municipal council nor county commission has unlimited discretion when it comes to placing questions on a General Election ballot."
       The ruling also means Bernalillo County will be allowed to pose a ballot advisory question on a mental health and social services tax to county voters.
     “This is a significant victory on two fronts,” said Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics. “First, the Supreme Court has confirmed that the Secretary of State does not have the authority to override local elected officials with respect to ballot questions. Second, and more importantly, this means that the citizens of Santa Fe County will be able to express their opinion on this important policy question.”
      "I am not going to make up a law that doesn't exist just to satisfy politicians," Secretary of State Dianna Duran said. "Some may decide to do that, but I am not going to do that." More

Tropical storm remnants make way through NM

From - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico is bracing Wednesday for possible flooding and mudslides as remnants from Tropical Storm Odile move into the state. The National Weather Service said severe weather could dump as much as 8 inches of rain in the southern part of the state before the storm system weakens Friday.
     Large storm clusters hung over New Mexico on Wednesday, generally moving from the southwest toward the northeast. So far, Socorro and Catron counties have seen around 3 inches of rain in two days, officials said.
     Five-day National Weather Service forecasts call for up to 5 inches in southern New Mexico, with up to 8 inches in the southwestern and south-central mountain regions. Heavy rain is expected throughout the week.
      The U.S. National Hurricane Center said parts of Arizona and New Mexico could receive 6 to 9 inches of rain and possible flash flooding.
      The remnants of Odile, which had been downgraded from a Category 3 hurricane to a tropical storm, were expected to reach Arizona by Wednesday evening and strike hardest in the Tucson area before moving into New Mexico.
      Officials warn thunderstorms in areas previously damaged by wildfires could cause flooding and mudslides.
      New Mexico Department of Transportation officials also warned motorists Tuesday to avoid low-lying frontage roads adjacent to Interstate 10 in southern New Mexico due to flooding concerns.
      Travel on Interstate 25 also could be hazardous with heavy rain and low visibility. More

Drunken man rolls car, awakes in field with donkeys

From - ROSWELL, N.M. —After no victims were found at the scene of a one-car rollover accident in Roswell this week, crews had to rush back hours later when the driver said he woke up surrounded by donkeys in a field.
      Two men rolled their vehicle in the median of U.S. 70 west near mile marker 324 Friday at about 2 a.m., according to state police.
      Multiple fire and police agencies went to the scene, but couldn't find victims. Seven hours later, at about 9 a.m., 911 dispatchers got a call from a man who said he was lost and had been in a car accident that morning.
      The man said he and the passenger were drinking the night before and didn't remember what happened next, according to state police. He also said he woke up in a field next to some donkeys.
      The driver, whose identity hasn't been released, suffered injuries to a shoulder and his hands. Police said the passenger suffered back injuries. The driver was issued multiple citations, but the charges haven’t been released. More

Marita Noon: The EPA is more concerned with what sounds good than what actually works

Commentary by Marita Noon - In this hyper-partisan environment, it is good to know that a majority of Senators can still agree on an issue. When such a rare moment happens, the rest of us should pay attention, as it is probably something very important.
      On September 11, 53 Senators (43 Republicans and 10 Democrats) signed a letter to Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), begging for a 60-day extension of the comment period for the “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units”—also known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The original 120-day comment period—which is already longer than the traditional 60-day comment period—is coming to a close within the next 30 days (October 16)
      I have written on the CPP twice in the past few months—originally when it was first announced on June 2 and then after I gave testimony in Atlanta at one of the EPA’s four scheduled “listening sessions.” Upon release, we didn’t really know much—after all, it is, as the Senators’ letter explains, complex and sweeping. But as more and more information is coming out, we see that the impact to the economy and U.S. energy security will be devastating.
      Despite my efforts to spread the word—with my second column on the topic being one of my most popular ever, I find that the CPP isn’t even on the radar of the politically engaged (let alone the average person). Because this is an issue of utmost importance, I am, once again, bringing it to the attention of my readers with the hope that you will share it with everyone you know. At this point, we don’t know if the EPA will extend the comment period, so please take time now to get your comments in. The Hillreports: “Adding 60 days to the comment period could make it harder for the EPA to finalize the rule by June 2015, as President Obama has ordered.” Read full column

Martinez widens lead over King in governor race

From the Albuquerque Journal - Copyright 2014 - By James Monteleone / Journal Staff Writer - Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has doubled her lead over Democratic challenger Gary King since mid-August, in part by picking up support from Democrats, Hispanics and independents who previously backed King, a new Journal Poll shows.
      The September poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday last week, found that Martinez had increased her advantage to 54 percent of likely New Mexico voters. King’s support slid to 36 percent, widening Martinez’s lead to 18 percentage points. The number of undecided voters stayed about the same: 10 percent in the latest poll, compared with 9 percent in the earlier one.
      Martinez’s gains follow a month long barrage of Martinez television ads, several of them criticizing King for votes he cast more than 25 years ago when he was a member of the state House of Representatives.The Aug. 12-14 Journal Poll showed Martinez leading King, currently the state’s attorney general, 50 percent to 41 percent.
      “Simple math tells you that the governor is picking up some of Gary King’s support from the prior poll in the past month, actually cutting into King’s base,” said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
      “Gary King has been sliding,” Sanderoff said. Read full story

Sec. of State rejects Bernalillo, Santa Fe County pot ballot advisory questions

From - By: Blair Miller, - New Mexico's Secretary of State, Dianna Duran, sent a letter to the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners Wednesday saying the decision to put "advisory" questions about marijuana decriminalization and social services is "unconstitutional and incompatible with state law."
      The letter says legal counsel for the secretary informed her "neither a municipal council nor county commission has unlimited discretion when it comes to placing questions on a General Election ballot."
      It goes on to say that "statutory language calls for a decision to be made by the electorate", and that "the drafters of the constitution nor any subsequent legislature have seen fit to authorize the expense of elections on questions for any reason other than to enact public policy."
      The ballot questions would pose the idea of marijuana decriminalization and a new social services tax to county voters, so county commissioners and city council members can have a reference point for future decisions on the matter.
      The Santa Fe County Commission voted 5-0 Tuesday to put a marijuana decriminalization advisory question on the November ballot.
      The move came one day after the Bernalillo County Commission voted to put a nearly-identical question on November's ballot, and two weeks after the Santa Fe City Council voted 5-4 to make marijuana possession of under an ounce in city limits a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $25 fine.
      Both Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties will likely appeal the secretary's decision. More

‘Chili’ company’s spelling choice raises eyebrows

From - HATCH, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s an age old question in New Mexico. Is the vegetable that tops so many plates statewide spelled “chile” or “chili?” For most New Mexicans, there’s only one way, and that’s “chile” with an “e.” However, the way one Hatch farm is spelling it is still raising some eyebrows, opting for “chili.”
      The company behind the product has been growing “chili” in Hatch for more than 50 years. While most of their neighbors have put an “e” on the end of their product, Barker’s is sticking with “chili,” leaving some wondering why. In the heat of chile season, a lot of people think getting chile “right” in New Mexico means Hatch grown and fire roasted. But another crucial step? You’ve got to spell “chile” the so-called “right way.”
      It’s a common thought for most New Mexicans that chile has an “e” on the end of it. Even the state has taken an official stance on it in the “New Mexico True” advertising campaign. One of the most recent ads it released says, “we spell chile the right way,” ending with the statement, “that’s New Mexico True.” The state’s new New Mexico-grown certification program also spells chile with an “e.” So it comes as a surprise for some New Mexicans to see a New Mexico company spelling “chili” with an “I.”
     The farm that packages Barkers Chile’s has a website that spells “chile” both ways. They’ve been in Hatch for more than 50 years. And a 14-year business near Broadway and Lomas, Albuquerque’s “Chile Konnection” with a “K” knows it first hand, the spelling game can get you some flack. However, they say they still have love for a New Mexico product.
     One of the people working at the Mesilla Valley Chili Company Tuesday told New 13, they do get a lot of complaints about the name but say the owner has always been in New Mexico and has always stuck to her guns with the use of the letter “I”. The employee said she has strong opinions about chili and has no plans on changing them anytime soon. More

Marita Noon: Don’t give up America’s economic and competitive advantage

Commentary by Marita Noon - “This is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world.”
     With 9-11 nearly upon us, ISIS is brazenly beheading American journalists—with a promise of more to come; Christian congregations have been bombed during worship, churches have been destroyed, monasteries attacked, entire cities purged, hundreds of thousands have fled, while others have been slaughtered; and cities, weapons, banks, and key infrastructures are being captured. Surely, with all of these horrors playing out before our eyes, the crisis in Syria and Iraq is the “most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.” No, the quote above was made about climate change by Hillary Clinton—the heavy favorite for the Democratic 2016 presidential nomination—before astanding-room-only crowd at Senator Harry Reid’s seventh National Clean Energy Summit (NCES 7.0) held in Las Vegas on Thursday, September 4.
      We could almost forgive Secretary of State John Kerry for his similar statement made in Jakarta, Indonesia, on February 16, when he referred to climate change as: “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” ISIS hadn’t yet erupted onto the international stage. But now we know better. We know that the world isn’t less violent than it has ever been. We know that it isn’t more tolerant than it has ever been.
      Apparently, Clinton hasn’t been following the news. Or, as Senator Rand Paul pointed out: she’s “battling climate change instead of terrorism.”
      Clinton’s speech on Thursday was presented to a “friendly crowd,” who cheered her on. In his introduction, Reid declared that Clinton is: “able to explain things in a way we all understand” and said that she was: “the first to identify the fact that there is something called climate change.” Her spot on the program has been referenced as: “her first energy and climate speech of a publicity tour that many believe is the springboard to a presidential campaign.”
      While no one in the Mandalay Bay ballroom questioned the validity of her statements—and the Q & A session led by White House Senior Advisor John Podesta resembled a lovefest—there was more than her misperception about “the challenges we face as a nation and a world” to question. Read full column

Commissioners to decide whether pot measure makes ballot

From - By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - On Monday, Bernalillo County commissioners are set to decide whether a controversial pot measure makes it onto the November ballot for voters.
      But county commissioner Wayne Johnson says he’s not sure the county commission has the right to put the question on the ballot, and he’s asking New Mexico’s Secretary of State for guidance.
      For months, proponents of reducing marijuana penalties passed around petitions to get the issue on the November ballot. Albuquerque city council voted to add it, but the mayor vetoed it. Now, it’s in the county commission’s hands.
      “It gives the voters a chance to weigh in and say yes, that's the direction we want you to take,” Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins said.
      But Commissioner Wayne Johnson believes the push is really a political tactic. “There are some folks that feel it would drive a segment of the population for turnout,” Johnson said.
      Stebbins disagrees that it’s being used as a political tactic. She says it’s a way for the commission to get guidance on what the community wants. More

Report: Santa Fe students spend up to 15 hours on standardized tests

From the Santa Fe New Mexican - By Robert Nott - Students in Santa Fe’s public schools spend between six and 15.5 hours taking standardized tests every year, according to a presentation to the school board Wednesday.
      The most any student might spend on state tests is 19.5 hours — or 1.8 percent of instructional time over the course of a year, says a report prepared by the district’s chief information and strategy officer, Richard Bowman. In comparison, recent national studies show students in large urban districts spend between 20 and 50 hours on testing every year.
      School board President Steve Carrillo said testing has become an “explosive” issue, but “we’ve always taken tests. It’s not such a bad thing. … We can’t get rid of all testing,” he said.
      He said Bowman’s presentation was to give community members a realistic assessment of the time invested in testing, especially since test scores and participation are now a major part of teacher evaluations and are key in measuring a school under the state’s A-F grading system.
      In Santa Fe Public Schools, fourth- and seventh-graders are tested the most, at 15.5 hours per year. Third-graders spend 15 hours testing. Students in grades five, six, eight, nine and 10 undergo 13.5 hours of testing, while 11th-graders spend 11 hours testing. Students in grades K-2 take six hours of tests. More

APS still down 200 teachers, retired teachers filling in as substitutes

From - By: Kai Porter, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - ALBUQUERQUE -- Three weeks into the school year, Albuquerque Public Schools still need to hire more than 200 teachers.
     The district says this happens every year, and that despite the shortage, students are still getting the education they deserve.
      A grandparent of an APS student says he isn't surprised the district is still short. "I think we really need to spend more money on our education system," Fook Lee said. "If it's affecting the teachers, what does it pour down to? Kids themselves."
      The district still needs to hire 81 elementary school teachers, 15 middle school teachers, 21 high school teachers and 90 special education teachers.
       "It's not unique to New Mexico, but I do think New Mexico has a hard time competing with other states because our starting salary is only $32,000 [a year] for teachers," said Karen Rudys, the Executive Director of Human Resources.
      Rudys said the district is currently filling the vacancies with long-term substitutes, many of whom are retired teachers, until the district can hire permanent replacements.
      The 200 vacancies are less than one percent of the district's total number of teachers, and the district says it doesn't expect to fill all of those positions. More

Marita Noon: Mr. President, what about a campaign-style push to talk up America?

Commentary by Marita Noon - One of the unique roles of the executive is to be a cheerleader for his/her individual state—or in the case of the President, for his country.
      This is, perhaps, best exemplified by Texas Governor Rick Perry who, as ABC News puts it: “has made a campaign-style push in states like California, Illinois and Missouri by hosting business meetings and appearing on TV and radio shows to promise low taxes and incentives for any businesses with an itch to relocate.” InJune, Perry was in New York and Connecticut “to woo firearm manufacturers and other companies.” He launched a $1 million ad campaign in New York touting low-tax Texas, with a variety of Texans praising their paradise.
      Imagine if President Obama had done this—instead of an apology tour.
      He’d air ads in Germany encouraging them to buy American coal—after all, ours is cleaner burning than theirs (and Germany is very concerned about the environment); we have plenty of it (especially since we won’t be using so much after his policies shut down coal-fueled power plants); the price has dropped (while natural gas has gone up); they can get it from a friendly supplier (unlike the natural gas and coal Germany gets from Russia); and most importantly, Germany needs it (and apparently, he thinks we don’t).
      Thanks to Obama’s policies, we are prematurely shutting down our coal-fueled electricity generation—with the idea that we can replace it with wind and solar. Germany is prematurely shutting down its nuclear-powered fleet. It has already tried to go with wind and solar—with a goal of producing 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050—but it is not working out so well. Since 2011, when Chancellor Angela Merkel launched the energy revolution, or Energiewende, designed to wean the country off of nuclear and fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions have gone up; the average price of electricity for companies has (according to the Wall Street Journal’s [WSJ] August 26 report) “jumped 60%” and are now more than double those in the U.S.; and, as nuclear plants are closed, they are being replaced with coal as “intermittent renewables alone” can’t “replace nuclear power and provide round-the-clock supply.”
      Germany’s story is a shock to many who see it as the model of “green.” Read full column