Local News

  • NM legislators demand response from Archbishop Wester for ‘racist’ accusation

    Thirty-three New Mexico legislators sent a letter Monday to Archbishop John C. Wester demanding his response to recent comments made by Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    In his remarks, Sanchez claimed that a proposal to increase expenditures from New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund to pay for early childhood programs failed to pass because of “an element of racism” among its opponents. Sanchez also said that “opposition came from people with power and wealth.”

    In the letter, legislators wrote, “we are deeply troubled by recent comments made by Allen Sanchez, the executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since his comments were delivered as a representative and spokesperson of the Roman Catholic Church in New Mexico, we feel compelled to ask you to confirm that his statement reflects the views of you and your fellow bishops in New Mexico.”

    Legislators noted that opposition to the proposal, House Joint Resolution 1, crossed all political, ethnic, religious and demographic lines, and opponents hailed from every region of New Mexico. They also said that state leaders have worked to increase support for early childhood programs, and since 2012, funding for these programs has more than doubled to $270 million annually.

  • RCLC meeting sidelined by open meetings act violation allegation

    Regional Coalition of LANL Communities members unexpectedly halted discussion of the executive director’s contract at their meeting Monday when a Los Alamos County Councilor and coalition representative claimed the meeting did not meet a requirement of the Open Meetings Act.

    County Councilor Chris Chandler said she received a text message from the Los Alamos County Attorney Alvin Leapheart before the meeting started, questioning the validity of the meeting. “I received a text this morning from our county attorney, who asked me isn’t this meeting deemed a continuation of the previous meeting. I shared this text with the other members of the board,” Coalition member and Los Alamos County Councilor Chris Chandler told members of the coalition. “He says, if so, are they attempting to consider matters not appearing on the agenda of the original meeting. Apparently he views this in derogation of the open meetings act, because under the open meetings act you cannot add new items to a continuing meeting.”

  • High Court: Feds have role in Texas-New Mexico water fight

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A lawsuit pitting Texas against New Mexico and Colorado over access to water from the Rio Grande must be sent back to an arbitrator, also known as a special master, to resolve the dispute, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.

    Justice Neil Gorsuch noted the federal government has an interest in ensuring water commitments are kept involving one of North America's longest rivers, citing an international agreement with Mexico and the decades-old Rio Grande Compact. The federal government has said it may pursue claims for compact violations involving the dispute.

    "A breach of the compact could jeopardize the federal government's ability to satisfy its treaty obligations to Mexico," Gorsuch wrote.

    All sides say the stakes are high given uncertainty about the future sustainability of water supplies throughout the Rio Grande Valley. In dry years when there's not enough water in the river, chile and onion farmers and pecan growers in southern New Mexico are forced to rely on wells to keep their crops and trees alive.

  • Immigration audits at New Mexico businesses sow fear

    SANTA FE (AP) — Immigrant rights advocates and local officials in New Mexico's state capital city say that recent businesses inspections by federal immigration enforcement officials and additional detentions are sowing fear in the community.

    Marcela Diaz of the immigrant-advocacy group Somos Un Pueblo Unido on Monday said that at least six businesses in Santa Fe were hit with employment audits over the past week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agency officials for the region had no immediate comment.

    Diaz is not naming the businesses because audits are ongoing but described them as locally owned and not franchises. She also said four people were detained by immigration officials.

    Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said the enforcement actions amount to bullying. Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia says students are anxious.

  • University of New Mexico's 1st female president to take helm

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — For the first time in the 129-year history of University of New Mexico, a female president is preparing to take the helm.

    Named to the top spot in November, Garnett Stokes is scheduled to be introduced to campus Monday.
    Stokes, 61, accepted a five-year contract with a salary of $400,000 and comes to UNM from the University of Missouri,

    where she was provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

    "I am honored to be selected as the University of New Mexico's new president," Stokes said. "I am enthusiastic about what we can accomplish together to benefit UNM's faculty, staff, students, and alumni."

    She takes over as the University of New Mexico and other New Mexico colleges grapple with funding shortages and enrollments that have generally trended downward. In addition, the university has faced criticism for its professor salaries and not doing enough to help some struggling programs like the journalism program.

    The University of New Mexico also faces accusations of financial mismanagement in its athletics department. UNM football coach Bob Davie is also serving a 30-day suspension following multiple investigations that examined whether he and coaching staff interfered with criminal probes or misconduct cases involving players.

  • Chamisa’s Zero Waste lunch program steals show

    Members of Chamisa Elementary School have made it to the silver screen.

    And even though it’s only a commercial being shown prior to the feature films at the Reel Deal Theater in Los Alamos, the participants must feel like stars.

    They actually are stars of Chamisa’s Green Team, which is the group that created the commercial as a byproduct of the school’s Zero Waste Lunch Program.

    “Two of our teachers, Megan Lee (fourth grade) and Deidre Thorn (fifth grade) run our Green Team,” said Chamisa principal Suzanne Lynne. “They really deserve all of the credit. They meet frequently with students during the lunch hour and talk about the reusing and recycling so there’s no waste.”

    The school’s Zero Waste Lunch Program, which has been in place for approximately three years, was started to help raise the students’ awareness about reusing and reducing waste.

    “We encourage it all of the time,” said Lynne, “but we have specific times during the year when it is a contest and students win prizes for bringing in a lunch that does not require throwing anything in the trash.”

  • UNM-LA faculty, staff learn how to survive an active shooter event

    Members of the faculty and staff at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos learned Friday that, in the event of an active shooter situation on campus, there’s more that can be done instead of just hiding under a desk.

    That was the message Sergeant Daniel Roberts of the Los Alamos Police Department delivered, with the help of some of his fellow officers and the Los Alamos Fire Department.

    “The main thing is that you’re not a victim, you’re not powerless during an attack,” he said. “This training allows you to take control of the situation. It allows you to react depending on what you’re hearing and seeing. (The participants) are getting power from this, rather than just hiding under a desk where you feel powerless. Now they have the power to take their future into their own hands.”

    Roberts used videos depicting real and simulated shooting events to point out to those in the audience ways to stop an attack, as well as things that didn’t happen that possibly allowed the attack to continue.

  • P&Z mulls new sign code

    Los Alamos Community Development revealed its draft update to the county’s sign ordinances to the Planning and Zoning Board Wednesday, revealing two major changes in the code, which was last updated in 2012.

    The changes include removing content-based regulations and inserting regulations that define more clearly what the difference is between a permanent sign and a temporary sign. 

    “For certain temporary signs, the county will issue a sticker that will be placed on the sign and that will tell the date of when the permit expires,” Planning Manager Tamara Baer said to the Planning and Zoning Commission.  “That will help the applicant, but, if there’s a code enforcement issue… If it’s been something in a location for clearly too long it will be identified by the date on the sticker.” 

    The new code will also exempt all signs created by county, state and federal entities, including the new wayfaring signs for tourists. 

  • LANL Coalition expects to discuss operations Monday

    The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities will meet Monday to discuss the bounds of its legal authority and clear up discretions in its policies. 

    The organization will also discuss whether it wants to renew the contract of its executive director, Andrea Romero, who has endured criticism lately for spending over $1,850 on a dinner and  $307 for alcohol and baseball tickets during a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. 

    An audit performed by Los Alamos County in February revealed the questionable spending. 

    The audit was performed in part at the request of a group called Northern New Mexico Protects, which called the money a waste of taxpayer money. 

    Romero discussed the audit and apologized for what she called was a mistake in an Op-Ed Friday. She also offered to reimburse the coalition for some of the charges.

  • County Council to discuss Regional Coalition issues

    Los Alamos County Council is holding a special meeting 6 p.m. Monday to discuss allegations of improprieties involving Regional Coalition of LANL Communities’ travel expenditures and related issues.

    Los Alamos County is the coalition’s fiscal agent.

    At a March 2 Coalition meeting, travel policy issues and whether the Coalition has authority to enter into contracts for services were also discussed.  During a discussion at the meeting, Coalition members found that Los Alamos County and the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities seemed to be following different policies when it came to travel expenditures. Members also discussed the absence of any Coalition bylaws governing contracts.

    This meeting will follow a Monday morning meeting held by the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, where they are expected to discuss Executive Director Andrea Romero’s contract and the founding documents of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.

    The Los Alamos County Council special session begins at 6 p.m. at the Municipal County Building in Council Chambers.