Voter Turnout for APS Board Still Low, Despite Increase
Voter turnout for the Albuquerque Public Schools Board election was up notably from the last two elections. According to the Bernalillo County Clerk's Office, the race ended with 6.6 percent of eligible voters turning out, compared to 3.7 percent for the 2015 school board race and 3.6 percent for 2013. School board races historically bring in a very small number of voters, and the relative boost this year might be attributed to the unusually large number of candidates running—19 in total. In District 3, incumbent Lorenzo Garcia won with 64.9 percent of the vote, according to the County Clerk's unofficial results. In District 5, Candelaria Patterson won with 56.83 percent. In District 6, Elizabeth A. Armijo won with 53.27 percent. In District 7, David Eugene Peercy, another incumbent, won with 64.04 percent. But despite the record increase in turnout, school officials say the numbers are still far too low. Doña Ana County Clerk Scott Krahling has sponsored legislation this year aimed at consolidating all N.M. local elections into a single vote day to increase turnout. He says the current system only confuses people and discourages their involvement.
Bill to Criminalize False Water Data Blocked
Last week, Republicans in the House Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Committee blocked a bill that would have made it a crime for public water systems to lie to the state Environment Department. The bill, HB 371, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Fajarado (R-Valencia County), would have made it a felony for the owner or staff of a public water system to falsify reports to the Environment Department, tamper with monitoring devices or conceal information—none of which are currently considered to be crimes. Fajarado had already made changes to the original bill, which applied to anyone with a liquid waste permit, making it so that the oil and gas industry were excluded, but House Republicans said it would leave low-level staff at water systems vulnerable to prosecution for crimes committed by administrators. The final vote on the bill was 6-6.
BLM Sells Drilling Rights Near Chaco Canyon
Despite protest from environmental and Native groups, the Bureau of Land Management auctioned oil and gas drilling rights in northwest New Mexico last month. The rights for drilling on 843 acres in Rio Arriba and Sandoval counties sold for $3 million following a five-year battle with protesters who say the parcels are too close to Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Chaco Canyon is a site that holds historical significance as a cultural center for the ancient Pueblo peoples. Opponents to the sale believe that fracking will have a negative environmental impact on the greater Chaco area. A BLM spokesperson says the parcels are all outside of a 10-mile buffer around the park, and that the agency will not issue the parcels to the winning bidders until all protests that have been filed are resolved.