Alibi V.27 No.24 • June 14-20, 2018 

Newscity

Report Questions ART Planning

The News Monkey

City Inspector General David T. Harper's office released a report last week which found several mistakes were made while planning the Albuquerque Rapid Transit system.

The 73-page report, conducted over 5 months, details how the city used general obligations bonds earmarked by voters for other projects to fund ART. According to the review, this was done with the expectation of receiving a $75 million Federal Transit Administration grant.

These GO bonds have to be used for their intended purposes within five years for IRS tax exemption, according to Harper. If the federal grant fails to materialize, the city will be facing serious financial hardships. The grant relies on the city's ability to comply with the Buy America Act, which requires a large amount of the buses' parts to be made within the country. The report raised concerns about a BAA audit which made references to documents that don't actually exist, recommending that officials ensure BAA compliance on future projects.

The report found that bus inspectors employed by the city were not trained to inspect electric buses and used criteria that applied to the city's normal diesel fleet. It also discovered that the city knowingly accepted a bus that was built to specifications intended for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority in California to fast-track its use in public relations events—including its use by former mayor Richard Berry and other city officials during a ceremonial first ride to the Botanical Gardens’ River of Lights event last November.

The report concluded that no instances of fraud had been identified but noted “that it doesn't mean fraud did not occur.” It suggests officials be more careful in the future when using restricted funds meant for other projects or relying on grants that aren't guaranteed.

PED to Change Graduation Requirements

The New Mexico Public Education Department is proposing a new rule that will limit the ways students who failed competency tests can graduate.

Currently, high school students must show competency in math, reading, writing, science and social studies in order to graduate. This is generally done by passing the state's standardized PARCC test, however a state statute requires districts to offer alternative methods of illustrating competency to students who fail PARCC.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the new rule will require students to first choose from seven alternate methods for meeting prerequisites. They will then be required to either procure an industry-recognized certificate, or complete a program of study or dual credit coursework in addition. In the subjects of writing, science or social studies, students will also have the option of submitting a portfolio demonstrating competency in that area.

If approved, the rule will go into effect in July. It will only apply to incoming freshmen of the graduating class of 2022 and those that follow.