Local News

  • Report: LANL comes up short on emergency drills

    LOS ALAMOS (AP) — A federal nuclear safety panel says Los Alamos National Laboratory has come up short during drills intended to show how the New Mexico lab would respond to potential emergencies such as radioactive leaks or earthquakes.

    A letter and lengthy report sent this month by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the board found numerous weaknesses dating back to 2014.

    While the board did not issue any final recommendations regarding the weaknesses, it detailed its findings in the report in hopes of helping the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration as the federal agencies address the lab’s issues.

    The Albuquerque Journal reports that among a long list of criticisms and findings in the report, lab crews regularly failed at establishing adequate incident command capabilities during the simulated emergencies. There was a lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities, ineffective coordination and inadequate communication, among other things.

  • County Costume Contest
  • Immigrant plan: Public ed regardless of status

    Los Alamos Public Schools board members continued to explain a proposal intended to protect the privacy of students’ immigration status.

    Members of the public continued to comment.

    At a work session last week at the Middle School, Board President Jenny McCumber explained that as a public school district, LAPS must admit all school-age students who live within the boundaries of the school district, as well as those out-of-district students who meet acceptance criteria.

    McCumber cited a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case called Plyler v. Doe, which found that “no public school district has a basis to deny children access to education based on their immigration status, citing the harm it would inflect on the child and society itself, as well as the equal protection rights of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.”

    The statement is also part of the board’s proposed policy.

    McCumber noted, as does the proposed policy, that there “is no state or federal law that mandates that local school districts must assist ICE (Immigration and Customers Enforcement officers) in the enforcement of immigration laws.”

  • SF’s call to halt plutonium pit program will not affect LA

    In the Nov. 1 Los Alamos Monitor article titled “SF’s call to halt plutonium pit program will not affect LA,” the article should have read "provisions in it that support requests for more federal dollars."​

    The Santa Fe Council passed a resolution Oct. 25 calling for Los Alamos National Laboratory to halt plutonium pit manufacturing and that the New Mexico Environment Department and the lab modify a 2016 consent order that governs the cleanup of legacy waste.

    “As emphasized through this resolution, prioritizing cleanup and safety will have a direct impact on the City of Santa Fe and northern (New Mexico) communities by doing right for past and historic legacy contamination, as well as recent nuclear criticality safety incidents at LANL,” said Santa Fe Councilor Renee D. Villarreal.

    LANL officials declined to comment Tuesday about the resolution.

    Los Alamos County Chairman David Izraelevitz said Santa Fe’s resolution does not affect the county’s relationship with the lab.

    “Every community has the right to express their opinion through their local government.  This does not affect our relationships with the laboratory the DOE or other agencies,” Izraelevitz said.

  • Later high school start times mulled

    Should Los Alamos High School start later to accommodate older teenagers whose growing brains may prevent them from getting a good night’s rest until the early morning hours?

    Los Alamos Public Schools officials are seeking from input from members of the public.

    An electronic comment box under the heading Adjusting School Start Time on the LAPS website at laschools.net will be open until November 6.

    The final “vote” and comments will become part of the school board’s consideration, along with a final report from New Mexico First, a public policy think tank, hired to facilitate discussions about the issue.

    School board members will review all of the material at their Nov. 30 board work session, scheduled for Aspen Elementary. If adopted, the later start time would apply to the school year that starts in August next year, according to a press release from Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus.

    Last week, Los Alamos High School teacher Michael Montaño has formally asked the school board to put the brakes on any changes to the start time at the high school.

  • ‘Unworried’ shoppers over lab stability may boost Small Business Saturday

    Local small businesses usually expect a boost – or at least not a drop – when the feeling around Los Alamos National Laboratory is positive, said two small business owners.

    “It depends on the vibe coming out of the lab,” said David Jolly of Metzger’s Hardware.

    He’s seeing unworried customers, and attributes it to the recent issuance of a final request for proposals to manage and operate LANL for the National Nuclear Security Administration. At least 20 contractors expressed an interest in the draft RFP, issued earlier this year.

    “People aren’t as worried about it; it doesn’t seem as disruptive as it might have been,” Jolly said on Tuesday.

    Cyndi Wells of Pet Pangaea, who along with Jolly is part of Small Business Saturday planners, said last week that the “vibe” from the laboratory is an important ingredient to confidence by customers.

    The Nov. 25 event, which is organized by the Chamber of Commerce, is an important day for them to be able to recognize their customers, which they hope will be interested in shopping locally, they said.

    The event includes at least 61 businesses this year, which is more than the roster from last year, said Ufemia Bernal Rios, membership coordinator for the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce.

  • New Mexico congressional candidate accused of stalking woman

    SANTA FE (AP) — A man running for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District seat is accused of felony stalking.

    Santa Fe police say 39-year-old David Alcon of Milan stalked a woman and sent her threatening messages last weekend.

    Alcon is one of four Democrats running for the U.S. House seat now held by Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for governor.

    Online court records don't list an attorney who could comment on the allegations.

    Alcon is the son of Democratic state Rep. Eliseo Alcon of Milan. A woman who answered The Associated Press' call to a phone listed in the father's name said the son was unavailable to comment.

    The woman didn't give her name and stopped talking after a reporter asked about leaving message asking David Alcon to call back.

  • Study finds New Mexico not prepared for another recession

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico is not prepared to withstand another recession — should it come — given its depleted financial reserves, according to the findings in a new study.

    A "stress test" by Moody's Analytics that looked at New Mexico's current state of finances was published earlier this month, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

    The state needs to have 10 percent of its budget in reserve in order to make it through a moderate recession without resorting to many significant tax hikes or cutting back services, according to the analysis.

    The study also determined the state would need 17.1 percent in reserves to stay afloat in a severe recession.
    With budget shortfalls pushing lawmakers to move money from the reserves to cover various areas of need, New Mexico currently doesn't come close to the bar set by the analysis.

    New Mexico is set to finish 2017 with 5.5 percent of its budget in reserves and have 3.4 percent by the end of June 2018, state officials said.

    The analysis found that 14 other states are in a similar situation as New Mexico.

    Although the analysis does not predict another recession is imminent in the coming months, it determines that with the current cycle of economy, it is inevitable.

  • The Normans' house of scares

    For most of the year, the Normans’ pale brick, ranch-style house across the street from Chamisa Elementary in White Rock looks fairly normal.

    A waist-high metal gate leads into the front courtyard; their name part of decoration.

    Real friendly.

    However, when the calendar rolls to October, the Normans’ welcoming exterior begins to take on a dark tone.

    “My goal is to make kids sleep with their parents at least until they’re 4 or 5,” said Larry Norman, with a not-very-evil laugh.

    He’s joking.

    Dwelling in their imagination, like an earworm, Larry and Janie Norman select from their huge menagerie of animatronics – gargoyles, grim reapers, skulls, witches, a spooky Victorian named “Freddie,” and that really horrible one, the one with a dead baby doll face and glassy eyes that seems to be looking right at you.

    They fine-tune the displays with extra sensitive and well-aimed motion sensors, adding fog machines, weird lights and sound, also hooked up to sensors.

  • Air Force officer says he was disciplined for his beliefs

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — An Air Force colonel said he was wrongly disciplined after refusing to sign a certificate of appreciation to the same-sex spouse of a retiring master sergeant.

    Leland Bohannon, who cited his religious beliefs for not signing the document, was relieved of his command of the inspection agency at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico following his decision in May.

    A superior officer also sent a letter recommending against his promotion after an Equal Opportunity complaint against him was substantiated, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

    The certificate is an unofficial document that’s traditionally given to the spouses of retiring military members, and it’s not legally required to be given.

    The First Liberty Institute, a religious liberties group, is representing Bohannon. The group is demanding that the complaint against Bohannon be reversed and that related unfavorable materials are removed from his service record.

    After Bohannon was asked to sign the certificate, he consulted with others on the base and he filed a religious accommodation request that would excuse him from the signing.

    The request was returned without action six weeks later, according to an appeal letter sent to the Air Force this month by the institute.