Local News

  • Lawmakers convene to resolve state budget crisis

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez urged lawmakers to avoid tax increases while making state government smaller and more efficient in the face of a budget deficit as the state Legislature convened.
    New Mexico lawmakers kicked off a 60-day legislative session Tuesday and took aim at closing the state’s large budget shortfall and finding enough money to maintain critical government services.
    Martinez outlined her budget plan in a State of the State address at the state Capitol and hailed progress from past policy initiatives on public safety, education and economic development.
    “Let’s not take the easy way out,” Martinez told lawmakers and state and federal officials gathered in the state Capitol. “There is a way forward without raising taxes on hard working New Mexicans.”
    With the start of the session, Democrats took back full majority control of the Legislature for the first time since 2014.
    Incoming Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe urged his Democratic allies and Republicans to work in cooperation to provide greater economic security for local families and businesses, amid a sluggish state economy with the nation’s second highest unemployment rate.

  • Gun groups eye proposed regulation

    The National Rifle Association is closely watching the gun bill legislation to be introduced as the state legislature begins its regular session.
    One bill the association will pay particular interest to is “Background Checks on Gun Transfers” (H.B. 50), a bill sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-43) and Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, (D-14).
    The bill hones in on regulating person-to-person internet sales and gun shows. The bill would require background checks for these transactions.
    “This legislation would criminalize virtually every private firearms transfer in New Mexico, while doing nothing to make the state a safer place,” NRA Spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said. “Everywhere these so-called universal background check laws have been imposed, they cost law-abiding citizens time, money and freedom.”
    Garcia Richard said the bill is still undergoing changes and will include exceptions for many types of transactions.
    “Right now, the bill reads background checks for all transfers. I’m not interested in background checks for all transfers,” Garcia said.
    Garcia Richard wants her bill to focus on gun shows and internet person to person sales.

  • Garcia Richard thinks a balanced budget is possible

    Although Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard was eager to talk about her legislative priorities with the Los Alamos Monitor Monday, there was no avoiding the elephant in the room: New Mexico’s ongoing budget crisis.
    According to Garcia Richard, some estimates place shortfalls for the current fiscal year (FY 2017) at $150 to $200 million dollars.
    Garcia Richard sits on the House Legislative Finance Committee, which has developed a solvency package to address the issue.
    “The governor (Gov. Susana Martinez) has a solvency package as well, but some of her proposals are just too onerous, I think, for the legislature to consider,” Garcia Richard said.
    One of Martinez’ proposals that Garcia Richard places in that category is one that would decrease government pension contributions to the state’s two main retirement funds by 3.5 percent of salaries, which would affect government workers’ and teachers’ pensions. Both groups already contribute to their retirement fund.
    “LFC got to solvency without having to make teachers pay more into their own retirement,” Garcia Richard said.
    Martinez is also proposing a 5-percent cut to higher education budgets. Garcia Richard believes that higher education institutions have taken more than their share of cuts.

  • Authorities: Southeastern New Mexico sheriff killed in crash

    HOBBS (AP) — Authorities say a southeastern New Mexico sheriff has died in a crash.
    The Lea County Sheriff's Office said Sheriff Steve Ackerman died Tuesday as a result of injuries he sustained in the crash. There were no passengers the vehicle.
    The office says New Mexico State Police is handling the investigation. No other details were immediately available.
    It's believed that Ackerman may have been heading to Santa Fe for the start of the New Mexico legislative session.
    A husband and father, Ackerman was elected in 2014 as the top law enforcement officer in Lea County, which borders the Texas-New Mexico state line.
    Ackerman previously served as chief deputy and had worked for the sheriff's office for about 15 years. He also had worked for other county agencies and as an instructor at the law enforcement academy.

  • Live streaming of State of State at noon on PBS

    Join NM PBS for the televised broadcast, and live streaming of the opening of the 2017 New Mexico State Legislature today and the “State of the State” address given by Gov. Susana Martinez.
    NM PBS will broadcast the address online at NewMexicoInFocus.org.


    • Noon – 2017 Legislative Session

    Ch. 5.1 will begin the online live stream only at NewMexicoInFocus.org.
    •  12:30–2 p.m. -  Governor’s “State of the State” address
    New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez opens this year's 60-day session of the State Legislature with the annual State of the State Address.
    Ch. 5.1 will break into programming and broadcast the Governor address.  (The start time is approximate, as events are fluid). The online live stream will continue as well.
    • Roundtable follow-up reaction

  • LAPD looking for owner of lost money

    The Los Alamos Police Department is searching for the owner of a sum of money turned into the department.

    Police declined to release details about the amount.

    “An undisclosed amount of money was located by a citizen and brought to the Los Alamos Police Department. So far, no one has contacted the police department concerning their loss,” LAPD Spokesman Preston Ballew said in a release Friday. “We urge anyone that lost this money to call or come to the police department and describe what kind and how much money they lost to include the type of packaging it was in. Upon receiving this information, and confirmation of its rightful owner, the money can be claimed.”

    Call the LAPD for information at 662-8222.

  • EPA says it can’t pay economic damages from mine spill

    DENVER — The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday it will not repay claims totaling more than $1.2 billion for economic damages from a mine waste spill the agency accidentally triggered in Colorado, saying the law prohibits it.

    The EPA said the claims could be refiled in federal court, or Congress could authorize payments.

    But attorneys for the EPA and the Justice Department concluded the EPA is barred from paying the claims because of sovereign immunity, which prohibits most lawsuits against the government.

    “The agency worked hard to find a way in which it could pay individuals for damages due to the incident, but unfortunately, our hands are tied,” EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham said.

    The EPA said it has spent more than $31.3 million on the spill, including remediation work, water testing and payments to state, local and tribal agencies.

    A total of 73 claims were filed, some by farmers who lost crops or had to haul water because rivers polluted by the spill were temporarily unusable for irrigation and livestock. Rafting companies and their employees sought lost income and wages because they couldn’t take visitors on river trips. Some homeowners sought damages because they said their wells were affected.

  • Youth Activity Center gets remodeled

    The Youth Activity Center in Los Alamos, operated from the south side basement of the community building, is scheduled for remodeling starting mid-January. 

    Improvements include leveling the uneven floor and updating the near 30-year-old finishes.  

    After completion of improvements to the Teen Center, staff from the Los Alamos Family Council, operator of the YAC, requested improvements to the obsolete and deteriorated interior. With project savings from the Teen Center and others, this became possible.

    “We are fortunate that the Teen Center and other projects came in under budget,” said Los Alamos County Project Manager Steven Huebner.  “The floors were sloped with floor drains because this part of the building was originally a truck garage in the early days.”  

    The sloped portion of the concrete floor will be removed and replaced with a level floor to eliminate tripping hazards. 

    The space will be finished with concrete polished floors for longevity and easy cleaning. Cabinets and counter tops will be replaced, walls patched and painted, a sink added to the kitchenette, and the exit door will be updated to be a code-compliant fire exit.  

  • Redmond takes over reigns at Youth Activity Center

    John Redmond, the new director for the Los Alamos Family Council’s two Youth Activity Centers, has spent a significant part of his career working with young people. 

    Redmond served as school resource officer with the Los Alamos Police Department for five and a half years. He was assigned to the high school for most of that time, but also worked at the middle school. 

    Before joining the LAPD, Redmond provided leadership training for a Silicon Valley health tech company. Prior to that, he worked at St. John’s Military School, a boarding school for seventh- through 12th-grade boys in Salina, Kansas.

    As the school resource officer, Redmond was responsible for a variety of community outreach activities. He ran the first Safety Town, a program initiated by police Chief Dino Sgambellone. He also conducted a three-day Boy Scout public safety merit badge powwow, based on regional powwows he had taught, helping approximately 25 boys earn seven merit badges. 

    What Redmond enjoys most about working with youth is their energy. 

  • Reiss gives ‘State of the County’

    In his last act serving as Los Alamos County Council Chair, Rick Reiss presented a “State of the County” message at Tuesday’s council meeting. 

    A charter amendment approved by voters in 2014 calls for the council chair to give an annual State of the County address. Reiss is the first chair to act upon that directive. 

    Reiss described struggling with how to distinguish his message from the annual “State of the County” report given by County Manager Harry Burgess for the last five years. That report – presented at last Thursday’s Chamber breakfast – focused on the operational nuts and bolts, such as the status of county projects and finances.

    Reiss chose a high-level look at the county’s achievements. He opened his remarks with, 

    “I believe Los Alamos is a wonderful community with great amenities and beautiful surroundings. In summary, I believe the state of the county is “outstanding,” with excellent county staff that addresses the strategic goals of the council, operational excellence, which is the foundation of county government and comparable results that exceed our neighbors, the region and/or the state.”