Local News

  • Legislature OKs bill to merge various local elections

    Vote early and vote less often.

    At least, that is the hope behind a bill that was headed to the governor’s desk on Thursday to consolidate various local elections in New Mexico.

    Under a compromise hashed out between the Senate and House of Representatives during the last couple hours of this year’s 30-day legislative session, election day for most cities, towns and villages – including Santa Fe – would not change from the usual date in March.

    Conversely, the state’s largest city, Albuquerque, would have to move its elections for mayor and city council.

    The bipartisan legislation’s backers say the goal is to boost turnout in local elections that often draw little attention and relatively few voters.

    Under House Bill 98 there would still be early voting, but aside from municipal elections, most nonpartisan local elections for school boards and other local government entities would take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd-numbered years. In addition to school districts, that would include hospital districts, community colleges, arroyo and flood control districts, conservancy districts, soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, and water and sanitation districts.

  • N.M.’s flu season has apparently peaked

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico health officials say flu activity remains widespread around the state but appears to have peaked and is expected to gradually decrease in coming weeks before the season ends.

    The state Department of Health offered its assessment Friday, a day after the federal Centers for Diseases Control said the flu season may finally be leveling off nationally after worsening for months.

    The Department of Health says New Mexico’s flu season so far has included 34 flu-related deaths, 100 pneumonia-related deaths and 28 flu outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

    The department urges residents to continue using good hand-washing habits, to stay home if possible when sick and to use cough and sneezing etiquette.

    It also says it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

  • Legislature OKs $180M in capital outlay projects

    There have been years in which there was much more money for brick-and-mortar projects in the state.

    But thanks to a rebound in gas and oil revenues, New Mexico has far more severance tax funds this year than last. And that means a lot more money for roads, senior centers, sewage plants and government buildings around the state, including a new state vital records bureau building in Santa Fe, as well as an expansion of the municipal airport’s parking facility.

    Lawmakers approved House Bill 306, which authorizes $179.8 million for capital projects.

    This includes $142.4 million from severance tax bonding capacity, about $36.3 million from other state funds and almost $1.1 million from the state general fund.

    More than $20 million is available for Santa Fe-area projects, though nearly $6.2 million of that would go toward a settlement in the decades-old federal Aamodt water rights case.

  • Who won, who lost in 2018 legislative session


    College students: The New Mexico Lottery’s staff and various legislators wanted to rewrite state law to eliminate the requirement that 30 percent of gross revenue from the lottery go for college scholarships.

    Lottery employees and their lobbyists said the proposed change, combined with more prizes, would someday funnel even more money to the scholarship fund. Opponents of the measure countered that students would be shortchanged for years and maybe forever.

    House members heavily amended the bill to guarantee students at least $40 million a year for scholarships. That bill died, but the 30 percent requirement for scholarships remains intact – a good outcome for students trying to get a degree without accumulating debt from loans.

    Think New Mexico: The Santa Fe-based policy organization fought the lottery staff’s proposal all through the session.

    Spaceport America: Just a few years ago, some lawmakers were calling it a boondoggle. This year, it got $10 million to build a hangar, a boost in its operating budget and exceptions from the state’s open records law.

    Public employees: State and public school employees get a 2 percent pay raise. Teachers get 2.5 percent and state police officers get 8.5 percent.

  • LAPS begins public budget meetings

    The Los Alamos School District held the first of four state-mandated public meetings Thursday night as part of the process geared to solidifying its 2018-19 budget.

    Lisa Montoya, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations, introduced those in attendance at the high school’s speech theater to what goes into the early stages of the budget process.

    “I always start with a Budget 101,” she said, “just to let everyone know some of the basic terminology and steps we go through.”

    This is the fifth time Montoya has gone through this procedure with the district.

    “As we go through the process I will bring forth what my expenses have been year to date and what I have projected them out to be for the end of the year,” she said. “For example, this year we spent this amount on gas, we spent this amount on salaries and benefits, teacher development, whatever it is. Whatever the category is for expenses, just how much we have spent in that category.”

    The administration monitored the outcomes of the state’s recent legislative session and continues to analyze the impact those measures will have on next year’s budget. It will continue to develop and review potential budget savings options through March, as well as starting school and department budget reviews.

  • Veterans post honors those who honored them

    The Los Alamos Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8874 awarded two essay writers and a retired teacher Thursday for honoring their commitment to veterans and the country.

    Teacher Andrea Determan, who taught in the Los Alamos Public Schools for many years, was honored for educating her fourth-grade Barranca Elementary School students about the American flag, proper flag etiquette and how to show respect for the country.

    Determan was awarded Teacher of the Year by the post and the VFW District 6 office.

    “I appreciate everything you do for our country, what you’ve done before and I appreciate those who are coming up,” Determan said to the veteran’s who honored her.

    At the ceremony, Determan received certificates from the post and the district office. She also received $100 from the post, the district office and the VFW Post 8874 Auxiliary.

    Kaya Loy, a sixth-grade student at Barranca Elementary School nominated Determan for the award. Loy was a student in Determan’s class when she was in the fourth grade.

    “She really inspired me to show more respect for my country, she completely deserves this,” Loy said.

  • Not just yet, gardeners

    It may feel like spring out there with the warm weather and the absence of snow, but gardeners out there should hold off for a bit longer, according to local experts.

    In northern New Mexico, Mother Nature is fickle, and it’s not a good idea to count your perennials before they hatch.

    According to New Mexico State University,  Los Alamos County Program Director Carlos Valdez, gardeners should stick to their regular February schedule. That is if there is no snow on the ground, continue with regular cleanup chores, and perhaps some watering, especially if temps have gone past 50 degrees for longer than a few days in a row.

    “Anything that’s been newly planted ought to be getting a good shot of water,” Valdez said.

    Newly planted means plants planted in the last planting season. Don’t try to plant anything now, even though it may feel like spring.

    “Invariably, in April, we will have a hard freeze,” Valdez said. “Stick to the usual routine with the exception of hard watering.”

    Master gardener and Summit Garden Club member Doris Thieleman suggests waiting until mid-May to plant.

  • A peaceful end

    There were no threats of a government shutdown this time.

    Instead, a sort of political peace reigned as the 30-day legislative session ended Thursday with a $6.3 billion budget headed to the governor’s desk along with a bipartisan slate of crime legislation and pay raises for teachers and state police.

    The bombast and sense of crisis that marked the 2017 session seemed to evaporate as Gov. Susana Martinez sought to strike a conciliatory tone on her way out of office.

    But gone, too, were any major initiatives or innovative policy changes.

    With Martinez nearing the end of her term and the state’s financial outlook brightening but not totally sunny, the session ended anticlimactically, with lawmakers eager to avoid another partisan showdown as they also wait to see what direction the state’s economy – and the governor’s yet-to-be-elected successor – might take.

    More than any new laws or programs, perhaps the biggest thing legislators gave New Mexicans during this session was a sense that their state government is no longer lurching from one financial crisis to another.

  • Former state sen. gets 18 months prison term

    SANTA FE — Former New Mexico Sen. Phil Griego will spend 18 months behind bars for fraud, bribery and other convictions stemming from allegations that he misused his position to profit from a real estate deal.

    District Court Judge Brett Loveless sentenced Griego on Friday to a 12-year-prison term, but waived all but 18 months.

    The former prominent Democrat also was ordered to pay roughly $47,000 in fines and serve five years of supervised probation upon his release from prison.

    Citing the need to restore the public’s trust in New Mexico’s elected officials, prosecutors had requested that Griego spend at least 10 years in prison and pay hefty fines for his crimes.

    The defense said a lengthy prison sentence would amount to a death sentence for the 69-year-old Griego, who was described as having significant health issues. Attorney Tom Clark accused the state attorney general’s office of seeking “the complete annihilation” of his client in the name of justice.

    Loveless emphasized that Griego had violated the public’s confidence in an elected official and said the sentence was designed to show that the ex-senator’s actions were not acceptable.

  • Police Beat 1-18-18

    Police Beat items are compiled from public information contained in Los Alamos Police Department records.
    Charges or citations listed in the Police Beat do not imply guilt or non-guilt. The Los Alamos Police Department uses the term “arrest” to define anyone who has been physically arrested, served a court summons or issued a citation.

    Feb. 7
    11:08 a.m. – Krista E. Wilhelm, 32, of Los Alamos, was arrested on a magistrate court bench warrant by Los Alamos police for two counts of conspiracy, one count of forgery and drug possession.
    11:59 a.m. – Brenden Brown, 28, Los Alamos, was arrested by Los Alamos police on a district court warrant and released.
    4:30 p.m. – Los Alamos police responded to a report of a fraudulent tax return.
    8:33 p.m. – Los Alamos police investigated a report of larceny. The case is inactive.

    Feb. 8
    8:30 a.m. – Los Alamos police responded to a call of a possible burglary at the Los Alamos County Public Works Department.
    11:45 a.m. – A warrant was served by Los Alamos police to an individual already in jail.

    Feb. 10
    Midnight – Los Alamos police responded to a call of three vehicles being keyed while parked in a driveway.