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Local News

  • Trump appointee announces run for Congress; Salas withdraws

    Staff and Wire Reports

    ALBUQUERQUE — A former Trump administration appointee who resigned after a harsh report into a tribal loan program he oversaw announced Monday that he is running for Congress in New Mexico.

    Gavin Clarkson filed documents with the Federal Election Commission to seek the Republican nomination for the congressional seat in the southern district being vacated by Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for governor.

    Clarkson said in a campaign statement that he believes running is the "best way to help President Trump stop the swamp" and protect New Mexico.

    In November, ProPublica and The Washington Post reported that Clarkson resigned from the Bureau of Indian Affairs following an inspector general report into the loan program he directed. That report alleged the bureau's division of capital investment did not have adequate controls and managed the loan program with limited oversight.

    Clarkson, a New Mexico State University business professor and an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, has served as the bureau's deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development.

  • Gov. Martinez unveils tough-on-crime proposals

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez is making a final push for lawmakers to pass a series of tough-on-crime bills in her last year in office, including measures to expand the state's three-strikes law for violent felons and restore the death penalty.

    Martinez, a Republican, unveiled the legislation Monday ahead of the 30-day session that begins next week in Santa Fe.

    Her proposals include a bill to toughen penalties for people who commit crimes while on probation or parole, as well as the capital punishment and three-strikes measures — which have both been rejected in recent years by lawmakers.

    Democratic lawmakers, who now hold majorities in both the House and Senate, have in the past noted that the governor's public safety agenda is outdated, and reminiscent of a wave of 1990s anti-crime laws that some other states have reversed in recent years. She has cited a crime wave in Albuquerque, the state's largest city, and her decades as a prosecutor prior to becoming governor in arguing for harsher penalties for violent and repeat offenders.

    "Every year since taking office, I've pushed lawmakers to get tough on crime because I've seen the consequences of not being tough on crime," Martinez said.

  • US senator proposes ending protections for Mexican gray wolf

    By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

    A wolf that once roamed parts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico would be removed from the list of federally protected species under legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

    The Arizona Republican introduced the measure last week. He's a critic of the Mexican gray wolf recovery plan that was adopted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November, calling it a regulatory nightmare for ranchers and rural communities.

    "I plan to continue my efforts to push for real recovery that takes into account the needs of the local stakeholders most impacted by this policy," Flake said in a statement Monday.

    The legislation calls for the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if a population of fewer than 100 wolves has been established in the species' historical range along the Arizona-New Mexico border. If so, the predator would be considered recovered and removed from the endangered list.

    Management of the wolves would be turned over to state wildlife agencies in Arizona and New Mexico once the Fish and Wildlife Service makes a determination.

    An estimated 113 wolves roam parts of Arizona and New Mexico, according to the most recent data. Members of the wolf recovery team will be conducting a new survey in the coming weeks.

  • Governor, Legislature set funding priorities

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and leading lawmakers proposed increases in state spending Friday on public school education, Medicaid, public safety agencies and economic development incentives for the coming fiscal year, amid a sharp increase in state income from taxes and oil-field revenues.

    The two budget wish lists – from the Republican governor and the Democratic-led Legislature –  both emphasize investments in early childhood education and the justice system, with pay increases assigned for teachers, prison guards, prosecutors and state workers.

    Democratic House speaker Brian Egolf said the governor and lawmakers have many closely aligned priorities – including “modest” pay increases for public employees.

    “A raise for hard working state employees, teachers, police officers is very much appropriate and long overdue,” he said.

    Surging state tax revenues linked to a rebound in the oil and natural gas sectors have been propelling a rapid turnaround in New Mexico government finances after two years of austere budgets. State government income for the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2018, is expected to surpass current annual spending by nearly $200 million.

  • LA County, council deals with sheriff’s office, rec projects, rate increases

    Los Alamos County Council and the county dealt with several controversial issues in 2017, including adopting an immigration proclamation, paying for recreation projects and going to court over the county sheriff’s office.

    Five recreation projects hung in the balance in May as county voters decided against the sale of $20 million in general obligation bonds that would have partially funded the projects.

    Two of the projects were in White Rock. They included a “splash pad” at Piñon Park and improvements to the softball field at Overlook Park. For the town of Los Alamos, county council voted for a project that would include improvements to the Los Alamos Golf Course, a multigenerational pool at the Larry R. Walkup Center on Central Avenue and a recreation center on DP Road.

    The recreation center would have included an ice rink in one building, and in the other will be a gymnasium lined for various sports such as basketball. If the bond is approved, Los Alamos would have two ice rinks, including the one on West Road.

  • Bingham sentenced to 5 years in prison

    Former Los Alamos County detention officer Dustin Bingham was sentenced Wednesday in First Judicial Court to five years in prison with 16 years suspended for engaging in sexual contact with two underaged girls.

    Bingham must also register as a sex offender.

    When Bingham is released, he must also serve between five and 20 years of probation.

    Bingham was arrested in May 2017 after an investigation by the Los Alamos Police concluded Bingham had fondled two girls. An investigation started after two of Bingham’s relatives went to the Los Alamos Police Department to ask for help.

    The relatives reported to police Bingham had inappropriately touched children that the relatives and Bingham both knew. The type of contact ranged from fondling and allegedly removing the minors’ underwear while they slept. Bingham reportedly also allegedly helped the children set up secret “SnapChat” accounts so he could talk with them, they said.

    When confronted by police through a conference call between the relatives who reported the crimes to police and Bingham, Bingham allegedly told police that he would sometimes fondle the minors “when the girls were wearing bras and sometimes when they were not wearing bras.” Dustin also stated he “needed help,” LAPD Det. Ryan Wolking said in his report.

  • Donating for life
  • Medicaid, tax reform, court services priorities for legislative session

    In a forum hosted by the New Mexico Attorney Richard Minzner and the State Bar of New Mexico, state Reps. Nate Gentry (R-Bernalillo) and Antonio “Moe” Maestas, (D-Bernalillo) gave the association a preview Friday of what to expect for the 30-day legislative session that starts Jan. 15.

    The lawmakers covered hot topics, including the gross receipts tax, New Mexico’s crime rate and Medicai.

    The only bills being considered in the legislative agenda are financial bills, taxes and appropriations, and bills sent by the governor.

    The Legislative Finance Committee recommends spending $6.26 billion from the state’s general fund for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which starts July 1. This would be a 2.9 percent increase from last year’s FY18 budget.

    Gov. Susana Martinez also released her priorities, which included spending $6.23 billion from the state’s general fund for 2018-19.

    According to Gentry, the state received about $200 million in new money since the last budget, which represents just under a 3-percent increase over the fiscal 2018 budget.

    “It’s welcome news,” Gentry said. “We had to make some very significant cuts, a couple hundred million dollars over the last two years to the state budget.”

  • BPU to mull smart meters for LA County

    Smart meters for electricity, gas and water may be installed throughout homes and businesses in Los Alamos County if the Department of Public Utilities gets approval from the Board of Public Utilities and County Council.

    DPU officials are set to appear before the Board of Public Utilities Jan. 17 with a contract from a company that will change out about 8,000 existing electric meters for smart meters. 

    The company will also install “communication modules” on 14,000 gas and water meters throughout the county. If the contract is approved by the BPU and then by County Council on Jan. 30, installation of the meters would begin in June or July in White Rock.

    The project is expected to take about 18 months to finish, according to DPU spokeswoman Julie Williams-Hill.

    The work will also include taking out previously installed smart meters installed on Barranca Mesa and North Mesa by another company, Landis and Gyr.

    When the system is up and running, the DPU and its customers will have a better idea of energy usage, Williams-Hill said.

    Customers will be able to monitor their usage online or through a phone app, Williams-Hill said. The DPU will be able to monitor usage for each customer.

  • Police Beat 1-7-17

    Police Beat items are compiled from public information contained in Los Alamos Police Department Records. Charges or citations listed in Police Beat do not imply innocence or 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.
    Dec. 27
    4:42 p.m. – Aaron B. Koetter, 41, of Los Alamos was arrested for reckless driving in Central Park Square and booked into the Los Alamos County Detention Center. He was later released.
    6:09 p.m. – Los Alamos police issued a warrant for someone involved in the intimidation of a witness.
    Dec. 28
    9:35 a.m. – Anthony Raymond Martinez, 32, of Los Alamos was arrested on a magistrate court bench warrant. He was later released.
    10:34 a.m. – Lisa Chavez, 32, of  Española was arrested on a municipal court warrant, tampering with evidence and carrying contraband into jail.
    2:26 p.m. –  Los Alamos police investigated the theft of fire extinguishers at State Route 4 Self Storage.
    Dec. 29
    11 a.m. – Los Alamos police investigated an incident of a dog bite, and issued a summons to the dog’s owner.
    Dec. 31