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Demonstrators Denounce Anti-Abortion Shills on Civic Plaza
A coalition of abortion-rights activists, local politicians and members of the Jewish community held a rally Tuesday afternoon in downtown Albuquerque to denounce and demand protection from domestic terrorism. About 200 people gathered on Civic Plaza and listened, as rally organizers blasted out-of-state anti-abortion activists for terrorist acts, including inappropriate protests and demonstrations at the New Mexico Holocaust & Intolerance Museum, a birthing center and the office of a local family physician.
The rally comes little more than two weeks after teens from a California-based teen anti-abortion group converged on the museum, holding a large banner declaring, “ABQ: America’s Aushwitz [sic],” while others passed out graphic photos of aborted fetuses and “wanted-style” postcards with pictures, names and addresses of local doctors. The teens were in town as a part of a public-awareness campaign supporting a proposed ballot measure to restrict late-term abortions within Albuquerque city limits.
While former Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, the rally's first speaker, gave a brief account of life before Roe v. Wade, a female rally-goer could be heard shouting, “NO MORE COAT HANGERS.” Denish recalled the days when women had to take “desperate measures” to end unwanted pregnancies.
“I am a mother of two daughters and a grandmother of two granddaughters, and I want them to have the same rights to safe abortion that has been legal for the past 40 years,” she said.
The measure, if approved, would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, unless medical professionals deemed the pregnancy a threat to the mother’s health; it would not allow exceptions for cases of rape, incest or severe fetal anomaly. Albuquerque voters will have to decide the measure during a special election, because there isn't enough time for the City Council to approve the resolution for October’s upcoming ballot.
David Goehring via Compfight cc
ACLU and City Settle Free Speech Beef
Earlier this week, the City of Albuquerque and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico settled a lawsuit alleging that the Police Oversight Commission (POC) violated the First Amendment rights of several citizens during a meeting last December.
“The terms of this settlement constitute a big win for free speech,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “In a healthy democracy, the public must be able to criticize their government without fear of suppression or retaliation. This settlement not only affirms that right, but expands the public’s ability to communicate with this commission.”
The plaintiffs in this case, Charles Arasim, Kenneth Ellis, Silvio Dell’Angela and Eli Chavez, are all community activists who routinely speak out against police brutality. The four men say they were denied an opportunity to voice their concerns over a perceived conflict of interest involving one of the POC commissioners.
In addition to the $14,000 in damages and attorneys fees, the settlement is supposed to include procedural adjustments to the Commission’s rules to promote enhanced free speech and expression and citizen involvement.
Kenneth Ellis Jr. says he is happy with the settlement because it affirms his right to question the government. “As the father of a son who was wrongfully killed by Albuquerque police, I must speak out about the problems with the police and the Police Oversight Commission—even when the government doesn’t like what I have to say,” Ellis said. “No other family should have to go through what ours did.”
The fiasco began when these men attempted to challenge the ethical standards of then-POC Chairperson Linda Martinez for having deep ties to the Fraternal Order of Police. Martinez served as the law enforcement advocacy group's former president while serving as chairperson of the Commission. According to the complaint, the Fraternal Order of Police has a policy that opposes civilian oversight of police activity at any level of government. Martinez, who vacated the office after her second term, was not eligible for reappointment.
Enter MLK’s 23rd annual essay scholarship competition.
(High school students only)
The Martin Luther King Jr Multicultural Council has announced that is accepting applications for its 23rd annual essay scholarship competition.
The scholarships are $1,000 each and will be awarded to New Mexico 2013 -14 high school seniors. Using one of many images provided, applicants will write a 500-word essay that details their personal experience in relationship to Dr. King's life, his actions or ideals.
Those selected will be honored Monday, January 20, 2014, during the Council's 24th annual celebration. Last year the Council awarded 28 New Mexico students with scholarships.
All completed application packets must be submitted by mail to P.O. Box 40306, Albuquerque, NM 87196 no later than Sept. 9, 2013. For more information, contact Jewel Hall at 505-994-2335 or JCyrus1@aol.com or visit www.mlkmc.com
MRGCD election Tuesday, June 4
It’s all about the water
Property owners in several New Mexico counties will head to the polls this Tuesday to elect board members for the agency that regulates the usage of the water trickling down the Rio Grande from Sandoval to Socorro counties.
The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) is holding the election so that verified property owners can select board members for positions three and four in Bernalillo County and positions six and seven in Socorro and Sandoval counties, respectively.
Nearly all the candidates agree that the most troubling issues facing the MRGCD is the area’s lack of water.
Incumbent Adrian Oglesby said persistent drought conditions over the past three years makes this one of the most important elections since the district was formed nearly 100 years ago.
“The next four years will be critical, we are in the worst drought we ever seen, our reservoirs are functionally empty and we have huge infrastructure issues,” Oglesby said. “So the next four years we need really intelligent leadership to make sure the district survives.”
The MRGCD with its 200 employees and $20 million budget is responsible for upkeep of drainage ditches, levees and canals along the Rio Grande from Cochiti Dam to Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge. The district is also responsible for delivering water to nearly 60,000 acres of farmland for farms of all sizes, ranging from one-acre family plots to 900-acre commercial farming operations.
Oglesby said that in the past the MRGCD has relied on stored water to irrigate those farmlands, but aggressive drought conditions has him projecting that the stored water will run dry in early July. He added that water reserve depletion would amount to some pretty substantial losses and a big hit to the middle valley economy.
“If that happens we are obligated to shut off water to everyone but the pueblos that have very senior water rights. They have a small portion of water being held for that, and once that water runs out, then farming stops until it start raining again,” Oglesby said.
Jim Roberts is facing incumbent Karen Dunning for Position No. 3 in Bernalillo County. Adrian Oglesby will face challenger Louis Trujillo for Position No. 4 in Bernalillo County. A third candidate, Andrew Leo Lopez died May 28. Lopez will remain on the ballot, and if he wins board members will appoint someone to take his seat.
David Lorenzo C’ de Baca is challenging incumbent Derrick Lente for Sandoval County Position No. 7 and Chris Sichler faces challenger Jericho Sanchez for Socorro County’s Position No. 6.
The nearly 80,000 eligible voters can cast their ballots at any one of 26 polling locations throughout Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Socorro counties. Unlike most elections, voters must show a driver’s license or state ID to cast their ballots because of a property rights requirement for voting. Those who can’t supply ID or prove property ownership at the polls will be issued a provisional ballot.
The MRGCD was formed in the mid-1920s primarily to drain ground water from farmlands in the Atrisco and Old Town areas of the city. However, a couple of years later, the District added irrigation to its list of responsibilities.
County minimum wage ordinance squeaks by
The Bernalillo County Commission has approved a measure boosting the pay of those earning minimum wage in Bernalillo County. County commissioners voted 3 to 2 to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour; workers earning the state’s minimum wage are currently paid $7.50 an hour. The commissioners voted along party lines with three Democrats supporting the measure while Republicans voted against. Workers impacted by the increase will see two 50-cent hourly increases over the next year to earn $8.50 an hour by January 1, 2014.
“Bernalillo County families deserve a fair wage for a hard day’s work,” says Commissioner Art De La Cruz, who sponsored the measure. “I am committed to economic development and creating jobs, as well as livable wages for the workers that are the backbone of many successful companies and businesses here in Bernalillo County.”
But Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who voted against the measure, believes the push for a wage increase was political pandering at its finest.“The only real beneficiaries of this policy are politicians who pander to extreme interest groups and larger businesses that have the ability to survive the arbitrarily imposed costs and benefit once their smaller competitors are forced out of business,” said Johnson.
The new ordinance will apply to about 1,400 businesses in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County outside the city limits, and it's consistent with the wage increase approved by Albuquerque voters. Last November, Albuquerque residents approved a minimum wage ordinance that went into effect Jan. 1, 2013, raising the city’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 per hour.
The increase was met with controversy after Mayor Richard Berry backed City Attorney David Tourek's hesitant stance on stepping in to private sector employer-employee disputes to enforce the increase. More than a week later, Berry's administration changed its tune by filing a lawsuit against a local business refusing to honor the increase.
Tipped employees are also covered by the new county wage ordinance. If a tipped employee’s hourly rate, including tips, doesn't meet the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Tipped employees can continue to pool tips under the new ordinance. As with the city's minimum wage ordinance, the county will adjust the wage according to cost of living increase.
Hundreds rallied to support labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Around 200 people, some wearing blindfolds and vegetable costumes, attended “What’s on Our Plates?” last week, a community forum in northeast Albuquerque.
Organizers say the purpose of the meeting was to inform the public about genetically-engineered (GE) foods and push the city for legislation that would require companies to label genetically-engineered foods.
Yong Jung Cho, field organizer for Food & Water Watch, said the forum is just one of many of an ongoing campaign to make labeling of GE food mandatory by law.
“There are no long-term studies proving that genetically engineered foods are safe for human consumption or for the environment and yet the Federal Drug Administration still doesn’t require labeling. However at the heart of the issue is consumers deserve the right to know what we are eating and what we are feeding our families.”
Genetically engineered crops are created by transferring genetic material from one organism into another to create specific traits, such as resistance to treatment with herbicides… or to make a plant produce its own pesticides to repel insects.
Some of the most common genetically-engineered foods are corn, alfalfa, cotton and soybeans. In 1992, the FDA approved Calgene’s Flavr Savr™ tomatoes making it the first genetically modified food to be sold in U.S. stores.
Earlier this year the New Mexico State Senate voted down a bill that if passed would have made it mandatory for companies to label of genetically-engineered food throughout the state.
However, the city of Santa Fe passed a resolution about two weeks ago making it mandatory to label foods that contain genetically-engineered food products.
Vehicular homicide charges have been filed against APD Sergeant Adam Casaus.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff's office has charged Albuquerque Police Sergeant Adam Casaus with vehicular homicide and great bodily harm by vehicle for last month's accident that killed a 21-year-old woman and injured her younger sister.
According to the criminal complaint, Casaus operated his police issued SUV in a careless imprudent manner in the moments leading up to the accident, by knowingly entering an intersection against a red light without slowing. It was at this time the much larger Chevy Tahoe driven by Casaus slammed into the Honda SUV driven by two sisters.
The Honda passenger, 21-year-old Ashley Browder, died at the scene and her sister, 19-year-old Lindsey Browder, the driver, suffered a broken back and was transported to University of New Mexico Hospital where she was released a few days later.
Sergeant Casaus first reported that he was attempting to catch a possible drunk driver when the crash occurred. But IPRA request, filed by several media outlets of dispatch records, show that dispatchers didn't advise Casaus that a possible drunk driver was in the area and he never informed dispatch that he was in pursuit of a drunk driver.
Since the complaint has been filed Casaus has been moved from paid administrative assignment to paid administrative leave.
A settlement has been reached to clean up an ocean of illegally dumped tires.
A settlement has been reached to clean up thousands of tires illegally dumped in a secluded Northeastern New Mexico arroyo.
State Land Commissioner Ray Powell and Environmental Secretary Dave Martin announced Friday that an agreement with Daniel Ranches and Kansas Equity Investments has been reached to remove the nearly 300,000 tires from the state trust land in Mora County.
Besides paying the estimated $1 million to remove the tires, Daniel Ranches and Kansas Equity will pay an undisclosed amount in fines.
The giant mound of tires has accumulated on the state trust land for several years and was put there by Harold Daniels, a Mora County businessman and owner of the Northeast New Mexico Landfill. He has stated publicly that he diverted the tires from the land fill to the present site in an effort to control erosion.
Commissioner Ray Powell said, “Because of this lawsuit and the action taken by the Environmental Department, the lessee has agreed to clean up the site by the end of November 2013 and to take additional action to restore the land to an appropriate condition after the tires have been removed—all at no cost to New Mexicans.”
The state trust land where the tires are located is about 10 miles southeast of Wagon Mound.
“The Environmental Department is pleased that all of the parties were able to come to an agreement that will restore the land impacted by the illegal tire dump and eliminate a public health hazard,” Martin said.
But Daniels previously told KRQE-TV that he diverted the tires from his landfill to help control erosion.
“With the blessing of the Environmental Department, we started the project down there,” Daniels told the station. “It's not a tire dump. It's an erosion control project.”
Auralie Ashley-Marx, head of the the department's Solid Waste Bureau, said in 2011 that the department did sanction the erosion project but Daniels stopped following the plan for placing the tires neatly to stop erosion.
City's Environmental Health Department Apologizes for Health Inspection Mix-up
This afternoon, the city of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department (EHD) has issued an apology to 13 area restaurants that it improperly tagged with red stickers since the end of January.
The establishments were improperly graded because of a glitch in the software calculations that determine restaurant or other food service facility’s score during health inspections. In order for an establishment to receive a red sticker it must score below the 79 percent needed to pass inspection.
Food safety inspections are carried out by the Consumer Health Protection Division of the EHD, in accordance with Federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines.
“In most cases, the incorrect calculation did not result in a downgrade, but there were several situations in which the incorrect score lead to a downgrade that was unwarranted,” said Mary Lou Leonard, director of EHD. “We sincerely apologize to the owners and staff of these facilities and to the community.”
The calculation error has been fixed, and all downgrades since the new system was implemented in late January have been reviewed. The 13 food establishments are listed below.
Albuquerque Grand Senior Apartments
1501 Tijeras Ave. NE
Chili’s Grill & Bar
10021 Coors Blvd. NW
China Best ABQ INC
8201 Golf Course Rd. NW STE B
Godiva Chocolatier Inc.
6600 Menaul Blvd. NE STE Q-009
2701 Cutler Ave. NE
5221 Ouray Rd. NW
3101 Central Ave. NE
Louie’s Pub & Grill
5603 Menaul Blvd. NE
1517 Gibson Blvd. SE
5010 Cutler Ave. NE STE D3
6200 Montgomery Blvd. NE STE D
Sunrise Lotus Group LLC
9109 Galaxia Way NE
Vista Sandia Residential Care Inc.
8604 Camino Osito St. NE
Afro-Cuban Folkloric Dance at Maple Street Dance Space
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