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Today's News

  • Records: Ex-candidate was paid by rival before exiting race

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A former candidate for New Mexico governor was paid $14,000 by a Democratic rival a day before announcing his exit from the race, according to campaign finance records.

    Candidate Peter DeBenedittis told the Albuquerque Journal on Thursday that rival Jeff Apodaca had paid him for an email list and to be a campaign spokesman after he had decided to drop out of the race. He said he wasn't paid to leave.

    Apodaca's campaign finance reports show the $4,000 and $10,000 payments to "Peter D and Company" of Santa Fe on March 13.

    DeBenedittis announced his departure the next day. He sent a formal letter to the Secretary of State's Office to withdraw his candidacy on March 15.

    DeBenedittis said he decided to endorse Apodaca after speaking with all the candidates about the issues.

    Being unemployed at the time, DeBenedittis said Apodaca offered him the position so he took it.

    "To me, I'm trying to leverage the assets in my campaign into assets I can survive off of," DeBenedittis said.
    Through running his own campaign, he said he had gained expertise and compiled a valuable list of Democratic contacts.

    "For the amount of work I'm doing vs. any other campaign consultant, I'm getting paid peanuts," DeBenedittis said.

  • New Mexico's 'warm line' launches texting option

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico's "warm line," a peer-to-peer call line that helps residents struggling with substance abuse, grief, and suicidal thoughts, has introduced a texting option.

    The state's Peer-to-Peer Warmline launched its texting feature two years after the New Mexico Crisis Access Line started the warm line, KUNM-FM in Albuquerque reports .

    The warm line is staffed specialists who are specially trained to use their own experiences to offer support to those dealing with addiction or mental health issues. The state began the warm lines in 2015 as an expansion of the professional counselor-staffed crisis line.

    New Mexico Crisis Access Line Program Manager Wendy Linebrink-Allison said texting gives people a better sense of control over the conversation.

    She says texting could make the line more appealing to people who have anxiety or a busy day.

    "Maybe they feel more comfortable writing it out, and thinking about what they're saying before they have a conversation with somebody," she said.

    According to the New Mexico Crisis Access Line, the warm lines handles around 1,000 calls a month and each lasts around 15 minutes. Officials say some residents choose the warm line over the crisis lines to speak to someone "who has been there" and lived through the same experiences.

  • New Mexico Democrats elect Corrales woman as party leader

    TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES (AP) — New Mexico Democrats have elected a new party leader, weeks after the previous one resigned over his handling of sexual misconduct claims.

    The selection of Corrales resident Marg Elliston came over the weekend.

    Elliston will fill out the term left vacant by Richard Ellenberg's resignation in mid-March. Ellenberg had defended a prominent figure in the state's film industry who had been facing sexual misconduct allegations.

    The leadership shake-up comes as Democrats are hoping to recapture the governor's seat and flip a closely watched congressional seat in southern New Mexico.

    Elliston says she is excited to take on the challenge and promote a progressive platform.

    She previously led the Democratic Party of Sandoval County and has volunteered as a lobbyist at the legislature.
     

  • County budget is in, now comes the wait

    If its 2019 budget approval process were a game of chess then the Los Alamos County Council, having just made a move to put itself one step closer to a checkmate victory, is now waiting to see if the move will get snuffed out with a defensive counter or remain viable, thus keeping the door open for the win.

    “We’re just playing a wait-and-see game,” County Manager Harry Burgess said Wednesday, the day after the council approved the $188,838,880 budget.

    The county is now in the process of submitting the budget to the state while waiting on the outcome of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s contract decision, which will determine whether LANL is listed as for-profit or not-for-profit which, in turn, will have a major positive or negative affect on this budget.

    “The best guess we’ve got is that we’ll know around June,” Burgess said. “You can see how it affects our operations. We just went through a whole process, months of preparing this, to essentially create a tentative plan.

    “That’s the issue we’re up against,” he continued. “We’ve got a great economic driver, but we’re subject to their decisions because of that.”

  • New Mexico nuke repository defends plant safety plans

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A U.S. Department of Energy official says new procedures in place would have detected a drum filled with radioactive materials that ruptured earlier this month at Idaho's Radioactive Waste Management Complex

    The Albuquerque Journal reports Todd Shrader, manager of Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's Department of Energy field office in Carlsbad, said last week that detection would have happened before the drum left the facility for emplacement at the deep geologic repository in southeast New Mexico.

    He says the drum that ruptured due to an exothermic event "not that dissimilar from the one we had here" was in the very beginning stages of characterization.

    The U.S. Department of Energy says the 55-gallon barrel ruptured earlier this month at the 890-square-mile  site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory, one of the nation's top federal nuclear research labs.
     

  • Bandelier to raise entrance fees

    The National Park Service announced last week that Bandelier National Monument will modify its entrance fees to raise more funds for infrastructure and maintenance needs. These funds will be used to enhance the visitor experience, according to park officials.

    Effective June 1, the entrance fees to Bandelier will be raised from $20 to $25 per vehicle. The price for motorcycles will go up from $15 to $20 per motorcycle, and entrance fees for visitors will be raised from $10 to $15 per person.

    The Bandelier annual park pass, will be raised from $40 to $45.

    Revenue from entrance fees remains in the National Park Service. At Bandelier, at least 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park, according to park officials. The park shares the other 20 percent of entry fee income with other national parks for their projects.

    In response to public comments on the fee proposal released in October 2017, there will be a modest increase for all entrance fee-charging parks, rather than the higher peak-season fees initially proposed only for 17 highly visited national parks.

  • Report on problems at DOE facilities released

    For the first time, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency produced a report Wednesday documenting challenges facing federal agencies.

    The extensive report contains 61 Top Management and Performance Challenge reports, including a report on the Department of Energy.

    The Department of Energy’s report points out issues with the stockpile stewardship infrastructure, the primary mission of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This report highlighted problems with the infrastructure.

    “The nuclear weapons stockpile is aging and contains many obsolete technologies that must be replaced as the service lives of the weapons are extended,” a statement in the report said. “Further, NNSA’s mission depends on the facilities, infrastructure, and equipment for success. Yet the current demands of the stockpile stewardship program have placed increasing loads on an aging National Nuclear Security Administration infrastructure.”

  • Los Alamos Canyon Reservoir expected to open this week

    The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities is close to reopening the Los Alamos Canyon Reservoir after improvements to water lines at the location.

    Clay Moseley, an engineering project manager with the department, said the reservoir should open this week, but acknowledged that some individuals have already been making their way up the road to the reservoir.

    “We finished the last big construction work up there Thursday and there is still equipment up there,” he said Friday. “We have seen people coming in and out of there and that’s OK.”

    Moseley said the county is asking that visitors to the reservoir walk up to it instead of trying to drive or access the area with off-road vehicles. Currently a locked gate is in place in an effort to keep vehicles off the road.

    “The road to the reservoir will not be open to vehicular traffic,” he said. “It’s not that kind of a road. And we still have some work left to do up there, like some soil stabilization and reseeding. So there’s still some construction activity planned and people trying to drive up there will only hamper that work.”

    Moseley also said people should be aware of where they can and cannot park before heading up to the reservoir.

  • Santa Fe's city manager resigns at the request of the mayor

    SANTA FE (AP) — Santa Fe's city manager has resigned at the request of the mayor.
    City Manager Brian Snyder had approved pay hikes of 10 percent and 15 percent for 37 staff members on the eve of the

    Mayor Alan Webber's inauguration last month.

    Webber says the municipal government will halt the pay increases Snyder had approved.

    The mayor had initially defended the move as an important part of a project to modernize Santa Fe's software system.

    Webber has now conceded that a policy enacted in 1992 required City Council approval for the pay raises.

    Snyder has been city manager since 2013, but he won't be off Santa Fe's payroll altogether.
    Under a contract provision approved by a former mayor, Snyder will return to a supervisory job in the city's water division.
     

  • New Mexico unemployment rate drops to 5.6 percent in March

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico's unemployment rate is down as state officials report an increase in private sector jobs.

    The Department of Workforce Solutions' monthly report released Friday says the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in March, down from 5.8 percent in February and 6.3 percent a year ago.

    New Mexico's total nonagricultural payroll employment grew by 8,900 jobs between March 2017 and March 2018, for an increase of just over 1 percent.

    The year-over-year increase in private sector employment was nearly equally split between service-providing industries and goods-producing industries.

    Mining and construction added 3,000 jobs for largest year-over-year jobs increase for an industry, while professional and business services added 1,900 jobs and leisure and hospitality employment increased by 1,900 jobs.

    Among other industrials, retail trade lost 1,100 jobs.