Local News

  • Local candidates rely on small donations, self-funding

    The second general campaign finance reports released on Tuesday revealed few surprises in the Los Alamos County council and clerk’s races. 

    Local candidates are relying on small campaign contributions ranging from $20 to $500 dollars, with most of those coming from local donors. Several of the candidates are donating and/or loaning their campaigns money. 

    In the council race, incumbent Steve Girrens (R) is entirely self-funding. Girrens has donated $950 to his own campaign since the start of the primary. His spending is well below other candidates at $253.

    Patrick Brenner (R) is also largely self-funding. The majority of his $1,777 year-to-date total – $1597 – comes from loans and contributions from himself or his business, EDJ ink. Brenner has spent $1,626 since the primaries began. 

    Chris Chandler and Antonio Maggiore, both Democrats, show the largest year-to-date totals, at $4,785 and $4,025, respectively.

    Nearly $1,100 of Chandler’s total is from donations or loans to herself. Chandler also had the largest number of expenditures, at $2,562.69.

  • Schools, university ‘bond’ over students

    The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos has decided to hold its mill levy election at the same time Los Alamos Public Schools will hold its bond election. 

    The levy will be for one mill, or  $1 per $1,000, of net taxable property value. The funding will go toward the operation, maintenance of UNM-LA and capital improvements. 

    The one mill levy increase would add $33.33 per $100,000 of assessed property value. 

    Ballots are scheduled to be mailed out Dec. 20. The last day to submit or mail ballots to the county clerk’s office will be Jan. 24. 

    About a month ago, LAPS announced that it was going to ask residents to vote for $13 million in bond funding to rebuild Barranca Mesa Elementary School and to take care of other infrastructure issues in the district. 

    The five-member UNM-LA Advisory Board unanimously approved the levy measure during a joint session with the Los Alamos School Board Tuesday. 

    School and university officials said the timeframe made sense since the two schools share many partnerships and goals when it comes to educating the community’s students. 

  • LA County tourism grows by 10 percent

    New Mexico Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Latham held a news conference Thursday at Fuller Lodge. Latham and Gov. Susana Martinez were on a whistlestop tour across the state to promote tourism in the state. Latham said in Los Alamos County, visitor spending grew by 10.6 percent last year, making it one of the highest reports of spending in the state. That translated to $34.2 million spent by visitors to Los Alamos County last year.

  • LAFD dedicates center to Capt. Lujan

    Relatives of the late Percy Lujan came from near and far Wednesday to see the Los Alamos Fire Department’s Practical Learning Center dedicated in his memory. 

    Capt. Lujan joined the Los Alamos Fire Department  in 1976 and retired from the department Dec. 31 1996. He went on to have a career in aircraft fire and rescue. He was also an instructor at the New Mexico Fire Academy, and also served as the Chimayo Fire Department’s chief during his long career. Lujan died on Oct. 3, 2003. His wife, Josie Lujan, came to see the LAFD Training Center, located on 132 DP Road, dedicated to him.

    “I’m so honored, so humbled and so appreciative,” she said. “The appreciation of my husband’s work… he was so dedicated. Firefighting was his first love.”  

    His daughter, Mary Rose Montalvo, also traveled to the event from Alcalde. She said she was grateful that Lujan’s grandchildren got to see the center dedicated and to see how respected he was by his peers and former colleagues. 

  • County to select from 4 attorney candidates

    The four candidates for the open county attorney’s position were in town for interviews last week. The Los Alamos Monitor interviewed them during a meet and greet last Thursday.

    Joseph Alvin Leaphart is currently city attorney and solicitor for the City of Statesboro, Georgia, where he has been for five years. Leaphart created the in-house council position for Statesboro. 

    “They had an outside council on a contractual basis before that, so I helped start that office and get that office organized,” Leaphart said. 

    He describes Statesboro as a university town, and sees his experience dealing with the university system as somewhat analogous to dealing with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). 

    Leaphart also has 16 years of trial practice.

    “Over the years of practice I’ve just handled a wide variety of legal matters that affected local government,” Leaphart said. 

    When asked what attracted him to the position, he replied, “I’ve always loved the Southwest. It is basically the Southwest and the beauty of the natural environment, and the unique community that you have here. It’s just a very special place.”

  • Watchdogs concerned about readiness of WIPP

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A series of recent ceiling collapses at the federal government’s only underground nuclear waste repository has watchdogs calling on officials to ensure safety before moving ahead with a planned reopening later this year.

    U.S. Energy Department officials and the contractor that manages the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico will update the public on the collapses during a meeting Thursday evening.

    A radiation release forced the closure of the repository in February 2014. Since then, thousands of tons of waste left over from decades of nuclear weapon research and development have been stacking up at sites around the country, hampering the government’s multibillion-dollar cleanup program.

    The waste is meant to be entombed in storage rooms carved out of a salt formation deep underground. 

    Contamination and limited ventilation has made maintenance of the salt rock walls and ceilings difficult, but officials have said the recent collapses happened in areas that are restricted and will not affect plans for resuming some operations before the end of the year.

  • Alamogordo officials vote to OK off-road vehicles on streets

    ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — Alamogordo officials have voted to allow the use of off-road vehicles on city streets.

    The Alamogordo Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/2dNI5db ) that city commissioners voted in favor of the change but it won’t be official unless it is finalized at the Nov. 1 commission meeting.

    Southwest Suzuki Kawasaki owner Tyler Johnson says many of his customers have asked about Alamogordo’s law. He says he supports the change, explaining that it simplifies things for ATV users who need to go slightly down a paved road to access another dirt trail.

  • County website down Saturday

    The county announced Thursday its website at losalamosnm.us will be temporarily unavailable beginning late Saturday evening for planned server updates and upgrades. 

  • Gun safety advocates pump money into New Mexico

    SANTA FE (AP) — State legislative elections and big spending by a gun-safety group are thrusting New Mexico into the national tussle over access to firearms and whether current restrictions and background checks are sufficient to stem violence.

    Everytown for Gun Safety, a national organization advocating for universal background checks on firearm purchases, made several recent contributions to Democrat-aligned political committees in the state, including a $100,000 donation to Patriot Majority New Mexico, according to campaign finance disclosures filed this week.

    Patriot Majority New Mexico is a Washington-based super PAC that channels unlimited contributions, frequently from labor groups, to political efforts in New Mexico under rules that prohibit direct coordination with parties or candidates.

    The focus of Everytown’s new effort is to support champions of gun safety in the state’s Legislature, Everytown spokeswoman Mackey Reed said. The entire New Mexico Legislature is up for election in November.

  • Gays and Catholicism: Pope’s words open door to confusion

     PROVIDENCE, R.I. — An ideological tug of war over the firing of a Rhode Island church music director for marrying his same-sex partner illustrates the confusion that permeates some U.S. Roman Catholic parishes over Pope Francis’ words on homosexuality.

    Francis’ famous declaration “Who am I to judge?” in 2013 energized Catholics who had pushed the church to accept gays and lesbians. Now, some gay Catholics and supporters who hoped for rapid acceptance find themselves stymied by many bishops and pastors.

    Francis is being cited by both the music director, Michael Templeton, and by Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin, known for taking a hard line on church teaching about marriage and abortion. Tobin has criticized Francis, writing after the pope’s summit on the family two years ago that “Francis is fond of ‘creating a mess.’ Mission accomplished.”

    The pope has upheld Catholic teaching on homosexuality, reiterating the church’s opposition to same-sex relationships. But his shift in tone and broad statements about mercy have left a trail of comments that amount to a Rorschach test open to interpretation, say those who have closely followed Francis.