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Local News

  • 2018 State Legislature: Front-end license plates proposed for New Mexico vehicles

    BY ANDREW OXFORD
    The New Mexican

    What do you have on the front of your car?

    New Mexico is one of 19 states that does not require a front license plate, leaving room for plenty of custom plates bearing the names of automotive dealers, the brands of car makers, the logos of sports teams and of universities and all manner of slogans.

    Plenty of New Mexicans do not have anything at all affixed to their front bumper.

    But the state’s dubious distinction as having the country’s highest rates of automotive theft and property crime is leading legislators to rethink that long-running policy.

    The House Transportation Committee approved legislation earlier this week that would require vehicle owners to get license plates for their front bumpers, with some exceptions.

    Backers argue House Bill 158 would make it easier for law enforcement to identify vehicles.

    But the bill, which is also backed by companies involved with the production of license plates, may also raise concerns about encouraging the proliferation of speed cameras or red light cameras and cause some New Mexicans to peer under their vehicle’s front bumper to make sure they have a place to attach another license plate.

  • Sheriff’s candidate Chris Luchini has eye on bigger picture

    The desire of Los Alamos County to close the county sheriff’s office is not a new idea.

    During the last two years, a round of lawsuits between County Sheriff Marco Lucero and the county have embroiled the two in legal battles.

    Lawsuits, sheriff’s candidate Chris Luchini said, are a waste of time and resources, and taxpayer money.

    He said the lawsuits the sheriff and the county have pending in the courts now would not solve the real problem.

    “No matter how that ruling ends up, it’s not going to be the end of the fight. It’s a waste of time effort and money. Let’s stop doing this. We’ve been doing this for sixty years. Let’s please stop,” Luchini said.

    Luchini, 54, a business entrepreneur who does contract work for the Department of Enery in Los Alamos County, runs an energy company dealing in oil and gas, and renewable energy. He does not have a law enforcement background.

    Luchini would be running against resident Greg White, who has also declared his intentions to run for sheriff. Sheriff Lucero is not able to seek a third term.

  • Authorities continue search for shooter

    Authorities continued to search Thursday for an apparent shooter who, while reportedly driving a white Jeep Wrangler with a blue Marine Corps license plate, pulled up next to another driver and fired shots at him on NM 502.

    The incident happened Feb. 1, at about 6 p.m. on near Pojoaque. The victim was a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee who was headed home from work to  Santa Fe.

    Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Juan Rios said his department has received some calls regarding the incident, but none of them provided any information of substance.

    The victim was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital where a CT scan determined he had a bullet lodged between his scalp and skull. He underwent surgery later that night.

    The apparent case of road rage has spurred conversation about what drivers should do if they find themselves in an aggressive encounter while behind the wheel.

    That stretch of highway has a reputation of being tough to navigate, especially at the end of the workday when it’s filled with vehicles leaving Los Alamos.

    Even though the area is patrolled by various law enforcement entities, the amount of traffic adds to the hazardous conditions.

  • Renovations planned for select county playgrounds

    Because of the importance of playgrounds to adults and children in the community, the Los Alamos County Parks and Recreation Department will renovate some select playgrounds in Los Alamos and White Rock as part of a $20,000 upgrade project.

    Upgrades are expected to be completed by June.

    Los Alamos County Parks and Recreation Department has targeted several neighborhood playgrounds for renovation. They include three playgrounds in Los Alamos. Those include the tot lots in Walnut Park, the 37th Street Tot Lot and the Ridgeway Drive Tot Lot.

    Also on the list are Overlook Park in White Rock  and Urban Park in Los Alamos. Twelve-thousand dollars has been allocated for improvements at Urban Park, and Parks and Recreation plans to spend $14,000 on improvements to the concession stand at Overlook Park. The department also plans to spend $18,000 on Overlook Park’s playground.  

    Most of the work will be to make all of the parks more accessible to the disabled by removing safety hazards and upgrading some of the fencing around play areas.

    Also, Parks and Recreation will make the parks more attractive to a wider variety of age groups.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Regional Air Center economic district bill passes House

    The New Mexico House of Representatives approved House Bill 197 Thursday, a plan developed by Roswell-area legislators to allow local governments to create industrial air center special economic districts. 

    The bill passed 64-3.

    The bill is sponsored by Reps. Candy Spence Ezzell (R-Roswell), Bob Wooley (R-Roswell), James Townsend (R-Artesia) and Greg Nibert (R-Roswell).

    HB 197 allows municipalities to partner with their home counties to form industrial air center special economic districts. These districts would manage the operations of the special economic district, have the power to issue revenue bonds and make any facility improvements necessary to attract business tenants.   

    “The regional air center economic districts proposed by this bill would be dedicated to the development of abandoned military bases,” Ezzell said. “Converting these sites to productive use will stimulate economic activity in our communities. It is especially important for the City of Roswell and Chaves County to take advantage of the assets left at the old Walker Air Force Base.” 

    HB 197 will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.  

  • Dow industrials drop another 1,000 points as selling spreads

    By MARLEY JAY, AP Markets Writer

    NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks plunged again Thursday, and for the second time in four days the Dow Jones industrial average sank more than 1,000 points.

    The two best-known stock market indexes, the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500, have dropped 10 percent from their all-time highs, set Jan. 26. That means they are in what is known on Wall Street as a "correction," their first in almost two years.

    Stocks fell further and further as the day wore on and suffered their fifth loss in the last six days. Many of the companies that led the market's gains over the last year have struggled badly in the last week. Those included technology companies, banks, and retailers and travel companies and homebuilders.

    After huge gains in the first weeks of this year, stocks started to tumble last Friday after the Labor Department said workers' wages grew at a fast rate in January. That's good for the economy, but investors worried it will hurt corporate profits and that rising wages are a sign of faster inflation. It could prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at a faster pace, which would act as a brake on the economy.

  • State Forestry: State could see worst fire season in decade

    DENVER (AP) — One of the most important reservoirs in the southwestern U.S. will likely collect less than half its normal amount of spring runoff this year because of a warm, dry winter across much of the region, forecasters said Wednesday.

    Lake Powell, which straddles Utah and Arizona, is expected to get 47 percent of its average inflow because of scant snow in the mountains that feed the Colorado River, said Greg Smith, a hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    Smith said there is only a 10 percent chance that enough mountain snow will fall during the rest of the winter and spring to bring inflows back to average. It was the seventh-worst forecast for Lake Powell in 54 years.

    “Things are looking pretty grim” along some of the tributaries that feed the Colorado River, Smith said during an online conference on the spring outlook for Lake Powell.

    Powell, along with Lake Mead on the Nevada-Arizona border, helps ensure the Colorado River system has enough water to get through dry years. The river supplies water to about 40 million people and 6,300 square miles (16,000 square kilometers) of farmland in seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Gov. highlights budget needs

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Monday describing a House-approved budget as soft on crime in a push to increase salaries for State Police, corrections officers, prosecutors and public defenders.

    Her comment came as Senate lawmakers weighed amendments to a $6.3 billion spending package for the coming fiscal year.

    Disagreements over compensation for state law enforcement agencies boil down to less than $15 million — a fraction of the state general fund budget — but have emerged as a focal point of budgetary discord between the Republican governor in her final year in office and New Mexico’s Democrat-led Legislature.

    The Legislature has until Feb. 15 to send the governor a spending bill, which can be vetoed line-by-line or entirely.

    The House last week approved a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for all state employees, with an additional 4.5 percent increase for court personnel, state police, prison guards, parole officers and staff at district attorney offices.

    The Martinez administration has said the plan doesn’t go far enough in boosting law enforcement-related salaries, particularly at the largest district attorney’s office that oversees Albuquerque, amid acute concerns about urban crime there.

  • Libertarians shy away from governor’s race

    SANTA FE — The Libertarian Party did not enter a candidate for governor of New Mexico as a primary-election deadline passed, complicating efforts to maintain major party status in November elections.

    Libertarian Party activist and candidate for state Attorney General A. Blair Dunn said Tuesday that the party still has options open to protect its major-party status in fall elections.

    The Secretary of State’s Office says the party must win 5 percent of the vote in a gubernatorial or presidential election to maintain major party status. Agency spokesman Joey Keefe says a Libertarian candidate for governor still can file as a write-in contender.

    Libertarian candidates have ready access to the primary and general election ballot in New Mexico thanks to a strong showing in 2016 by failed presidential candidate Gary Johnson that provided major party status.

    Libertarians have registered to run for U.S. Senate, two congressional seats, secretary of state and state land commissioner.

    Governor candidates to file were Republican Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs, and Democrats Michelle Lujan Grisham, of Albuquerque, Jeff Apodaca, of Albuquerque, Peter DeBenedittis, of Santa Fe, and State Sen. Joe Cervantes, of Las Cruces.

  • SpaceX’s big new rocket blasts off

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX’s big new rocket blasted off Tuesday on its first test flight, carrying a red sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars.

    The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor.

    The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, as thousands watched from surrounding beaches, bridges and roads, jamming the highways in scenes unmatched since NASA’s last space shuttle flight. At SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, employees screamed, whistled and raised pumped fists into the air as the launch commentators called off each milestone.

    Two of the boosters— both recycled from previous launches — returned minutes later for simultaneous, side-by-side touchdowns on land at Cape Canaveral. Sonic booms rumbled across the region with the vertical landings. There was no immediate word on whether the third booster, brand new, made it onto an ocean platform 300 miles offshore.