January 30th, 2015: Local Headlines

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Veterans across the country may gain access to improved mental health services if the US Senate passes legislation linked to veteran suicide.  The Senate is expected to pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act which would provide funding to evaluate the mental health and suicide prevention programs of the VA and the Defense Department, improve training, and enhance collaboration.  Currently, there are approximately 8,000 veteran suicides per year, which averages to 22 per day.  The bill is named after a Marine veteran who struggled with PTSD and committed suicide in 2011 at age 28.

Absentee Voting for the March 3rd Regular Municipal Election for the Town of Silver City is now underway.  Voters wishing to vote by Absentee Ballot may request an application by calling the Town Clerk’s Office at 534-6346.  Early Voting will begin on February 11th and end on the 27th.  Voters wishing to vote prior to Election Day may go to the Town Clerk’s Office at City Hall during regular business hours.  To be eligible to vote in the Town of Silver City’s March 3rd Municipal Election, you must be registered by Tuesday, February 3rd.  Voter Registration forms are available at the Grant County Clerk’s Office.

Senator John Arthur Smith of Deming introduced a bill last week that would raise the age threshold for annual license renewals for seniors from 75 to 79.  Smith introduced the bill due to increased longevity and activity in older citizens.  He also stated, however, that if testimony shows the incidence of accidents goes up when drivers reach 75 years of age, he will back away from the bill.  Some lawmakers agree that the higher age limit would be smarter and fairer, while others object that at least some people are in declining health by 75 and aren’t as good at driving as they once were.

Steven Morales, 36 of Silver City, was taken into custody in Albuquerque on Thursday in connection to the alleged homicide of Esteban Ortega, whose body was found on January 14th.  Morales was arrested without incident and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque.

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January 29th, 2015: Local Headlines

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According to a new report given during Youth and Children Day in the New Mexico Legislature, New Mexico’s teen suicide rate is nearly twice the national average.  According to the report, 40 teen girls out of 1,000 gave birth in the state, about 11 percent of New Mexico teens are neither working nor going to school, and just 1 out of 5 fourth-graders score proficient in reading at grade level.  The state also ranks 48th in the nation in child poverty, and 49th in the well-being of children.

Two state lawmakers introduced a bill that would make smoking in the car with anyone younger than 18 years of age punishable by a $300 fine for the first offense and $500 for the second.  According to Senator Peter Smith of Santa Fe and Representative Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces, the issue of secondhand smoke is the focus of the bill.  The law has been received with mixed reactions, with fellow lawmakers stating support but claiming enforcement would be difficult while still others think the bill is micromanaging.

Today, New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD) Secretary Jon Barela joined Tim Nisly, Chief Executive Officer of the Rio Grande Community Development Corporation to announce that the Taos County Economic Development Center, Community Pantry in Gallup, Volunteer Center of Grant County and Northern New Mexico Food Hub in Espanola will each receive $10,500 to support their community commercial kitchens. These kitchens were chosen for grants because they are currently operational or will be in the next 60 days.  the commercial kitchen initiative helps local farmers, artisan bakers, and the like create jobs and bring about a sense of community and pride while growing the tax base.

Girl Scout Cookie sales have started up again in Grant County.  Cookies this year include Thanks-A-Lot, Cranberry Citrus Crisp, Lemonades, Shortbread, Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties, Caramel Delites, and Peanut Butter Sandwich.  The Girl Scouts program is designed to help girls grow into leaders of courage, confidence, and character who will make the world a better place.  Buying cookies from the program helps girls learn goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.

A Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow is in effect from midnight tonight through midnight Saturday night.  Snow accumulation is expected to be 4 to 8 inches above 7,000 feet and 3 to 6 inches at lower elevations.  Heavy wet snow will make travel difficult over mountain passes, could compromise the structural integrity of some rooftops, and dangerously reduce visibility.  Roads at high elevations will become icy and snow packed.  Strong winds are also possible.

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January 28th, 2015: Local Headlines

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Orlando Chavez was recently convicted of committing great bodily harm with a vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident after he exceeded the speed limit and passed several vehicles in the wrong lane in July.  During the erratic driving incident, Chavez allegedly ran Don White off the road while White was driving a motorcycle.  According to witness reports, Chavez made a pass around multiple cars and headed straight for White, causing White to swerve and lose control of his motorcycle.  Chavez currently awaits sentencing.

The Gila Native Plant Society recently awarded to scholarships to Christina Camacho and Garrett Hall.  Camacho will graduate with a double major in Botany and Cell Molecular Biology from WNMU and is currently exploring graduate school options to study plants.  Hall is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Botany at WNMU and volunteers at the herbarium in his free time.

The Bayard City Council, at its Jan. 26, meeting, approved the 2014 audit report by Fierro and Fierro, PA, of Las Cruces. Only one finding, an error in an entry for city travel, was discovered.  In other action, a request by Copper Little League President Hector Carrillo for the use of the Little League field for 2015 was approved.  Also, a new solid waste collection contract with Southwest Disposal, out of Las Cruces, was approved.  The regular consent agenda was approved, including accounts payable, library report, police report, clerk’s report, and the attendance of Bayard Police Chief at the Officer Street Survival Training in Albuquerque in March.

The Gila Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees met on Friday to vote and approve officers.  The recommendation was to retain Charles Kelly as Chairman, Pam Archibald as Vice Chairman, and Jeremiah Garcia as Secretary-Treasurer.  Also on the agenda included recognition of five employees for years of service and approval of the Open Meetings Act resolution.  Board members also heard reports about the GRMC Auxiliary being in need of volunteers, a successful Board retreat, the recent transition of the Emergency Room to Innova, and negotiations for a new fluoroscopy unit in the Imaging Department.

Legislation was filed yesterday which would significantly reduce workers’ compensation in cases when the employee’s death or injury is the result of being drunk or high on the job.  Currently, when alcohol or drugs contributes to injury or death, the employee is eligible to receive 90 percent of his or her worker compensation.  Under the new legislation, the compensation would be reduced to 85 percent.  The legislation is intended to help protect workers and hold violators accountable for their actions.

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January 27th, 2015: Local Headlines

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President Obama announced that he would unilaterally set aside 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness. This announcement comes after last year’s designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument—that locked up nearly 500,000 acres of southern New Mexico. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (NM-02) issued the following statement in response: “This wilderness designation will prevent Alaska from safely developing natural resources that would create jobs, increase state revenue, and strengthen America’s energy independence.  In his State of the Union speech the President expressed his willingness to work with Congress, but once again has acted on his own accord, instead of listening to the American people. I will continue to fight this President’s repeated overreach by ensuring that the people who are affected most by these designations will have a say in the process,” Pearce said.

A contest was recently held for the best homemade reusable shopping bags. The Town of Silver City Office of Sustainability organized the contest to help promote the new town ordinance eliminating single use plastic bags from retail stores. Reusable bags that can be taken to the store with you provide greater benefits than relying on stores to provide paper or heavy-weight plastic bags.  The bags were judged based on their artistic merit, their functionality and their use of recycled materials. The best bag overall and most artistic was titled “Broken Hearts Bag” by Kathy Cole of Silver City.

The Silver City MainStreet Board of Directors is pleased to announce the appointment of a new MainStreet Manager and election of officers. As of January 2 Lucy Whitmarsh was appointed manager. Whitmarsh brings a wealth of non-profit , MainStreet and economic development experience to the position. On January 21 an election of officers was held to fill vacant positions. Patrick Hoskins was elected president, Rudy Dominguez, vice-president, and Marcia Stout, secretary. The newly elected officers join current treasurer, Steve Townley and comprise the Executive Committee of the Board that also includes the immediate past president, Evangeline Zamora. Additional board members are: Ken Ladner, Richard Deaton, Georgia Bearup and Nancy Johnson.

In a brief visit late last week with Sen. Howie Morales, the Grant County Beat heard his main priorities for this 2015 60-day legislative session.  “As always, we want to accomplish a balanced budget,” Morales said. “Even with such little revenues, we think there is no need to cut programs. I want to increase funding to education through the whole spectrum, but especially K-12. Educators took a cut to get the state out of the recession. We’ll see what the revenue estimate is in February.”  He weighed in that he believes school policies on the state level are confusing and creating a burden to education. Morales said he feels frustration from the schools. “I want to continue to ensure that the 46 percent of the budget, which is funding for education, that the dollars are getting to the classrooms.”

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January 26th, 2015: Local Headlines

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The US House of Representatives recently passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abotrion Insurance Full Disclosure Act by an overwhelming vote for the bill.  Representative Steve Pearce issued the following statement concerning the vote: This common-sense legislation codifies the longstanding Hyde Amendment that no federal funding may be spent for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or where the mother’s life is endangered,” said Pearce.  This week, hundreds of thousands of Americans spoke up at the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., and at similar rallies like those in Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Staff and I attended the National March for Life in Washington as well as local events to lend our voice for the voiceless—the unborn. All human life is created in the image and likeness of God. No matter what the circumstance, life is always a blessing.”

Steven Morales, 36, of Silver City, charged with the death of Estevan Ortega on Wednesday, Jan. 14, was the subject of a search by law enforcement on Thursday, Jan. 22, north of Ridge Road and again on Friday, Jan. 23, when officers surrounded the Shady Grove area. However, in both instances, according to Grant County Sheriff Raul Villanueva, Morales was not found.  Villanueva said Crimestoppers is offering a reward for information leading to Morales’ arrest. Information can be left anonymously at Crimestoppers by calling 575-538-5254.

The Deming Luna County Chamber of Commerce recently held its 99th annual Luau to celebrate local businesses.  After a steak dinner was served, incoming president elect Jim Dye took over from outgoing president Lori Coleman, and announced the winners of the 2014 Community Achievement Awards.  The winners included: Agribusiness Persons of the Year – Kenny and Merrianne Treadwell, Education Person of the Year – Janean Garney, Outstanding Citizen of the Year – G.G. Gore, Business Person of the Year – Greg and Wendy Church, and New Business of the Year – Patricia Prince of The Cookie Jar.  Congratulations to all of the winners.

A New Mexico State Legislator on Friday proposed legislation that would expand the penalties for various child sex crimes in the state.  Under the legislation, a person in a position of authority, including a parent, relative, household member, teacher or employer, who coerces a child ages 13 to 18 to submit to sexual penetration would be guilty of a second-degree felony instead of the current third-degree felony charge.  The proposed legislation would also modify the statutes defining second- and third-degree criminal sexual contact, removing a requirement that a child between the ages of 13 and 18 must suffer “personal injury” as a result of the forced or coerced sexual contact.  Finally, the proposed legislation would make aggravated indecent exposure to a child a third-degree felony. Currently, it is punishable as a fourth-degree felony.  The bills were crafted with help from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Department.

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January 22nd, 2015: Local Headlines

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The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is seeking public comment on possible increases in the park’s entry fees.  The proposal is to raise the basic entrance fee from $3 to $5.  Anyone wishing to learn more about the changes, or make comments on them, is invited to a meeting that will be held next Tuesday, January 27th.  The meeting will take place at the Gila National Forest office in Silver City from 1 to 3 pm.  Interested persons are welcome to come at any time during those hours.  Further information about the information can be obtained by calling the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument at 536-9461 or by emailing hugh_hawthorne@nps.gov.  Public comment can be made at the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment site at http://parkplanning.nps.gove/gilafeeproposal.

There will be a candidate forum for the Cobre Consolidated Schools Board of Education election this evening at 6 pm at Cobre High School.  Local news sources will be asking candidates questions about the upcoming election, what their plans are for the future of the district, and how, if they are elected, they will improve the district.  Community members are invited to attend and have their own questions answered.

In state-wide news, the World Property Journal recently selected Albuquerque as the top mid-sized American City to visit.  The online real estate newspaper praised the breathtaking view from Sandia Crest, as well as the museums, unique neighborhoods, excellent restaurants, and a vibrant tri-cultural ethnic mix.  Albuquerque was selected over other popular mid-sized cities including Portland, Oregon and Nashville Tennessee.

The National Weather Service in El Paso has issued a Winter Weather Advisory through Midnight tonight for the Southern Gila Highlands and Eastern Black Range Foothills including Silver City, Lake Roberts, Bayard, Hillsboro and Winston.  Periods of moderate to heavy snow are expected across the southwest mountains, with snow accumulations of 2 to 4 inches in elevations over 6500 feet.  Snow, sleet or freezing rain could cause traffic difficulties.  Be prepared for slippery roads and limited visibilities and use caution while driving.

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January 21st, 2015: Local Headlines

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Yesterday, US Senator Tom Udall issued the following statement in response to the president’s annual State of the Union Address.  “the president laid out a strategy that would help New Mexicans – and all Americans – address challenges like access to fair housing and education that we must meet in order to ensure everyone has a fair shot at the American dream.”  “We in Congress may disagree about the solutions, but I hope we can agree about the need to debate proposals like those the president proposed tonight: to guarantee all workers paid sick leave and a fair family leave policy, make college more affordable, and help establish the foundation to create more well-paying jobs — including by investing in infrastructure and guaranteeing access to broadband Internet no matter where you live.”

Silver City Police were dispatched to the 500 block of Cooper Street last Friday in response to a dog bite complaint.  The jogger reported that the female pitbull had bitten him, latching onto his thigh, as he and his wife were passing the dog’s yard.  He struck the dog to get it to let go and attempted to reach out to someone in the house with no luck.  Police were also unable to contact anyone at the residence, and no one at animal control was available.  When police attempted to use a catch pole to capture the snarling dog, she charged at an officer and was shot three times, killing her.

On Saturday night, Silver City Police arrested a 25 year old man after a call was made to dispatch in reference to shots being fired and a possible domestic violence issue in progress.  The suspect, Ricardo Mendoza, had allegedly fired shots in the house and pointed the gun at his father.  No one was hurt in the incident.  Police questioned the suspect and, after he denied being in possession of a firearm, obtained a warrant and allegedly found a revolver hidden in the kitchen.  Mendoza was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm by a felon, tampering with evidence, and negligent use of a deadly weapon.

The New Mexico Legislative session convened in Santa Fe yesterday at noon.  Governor Susana Martinez had an opportunity to present her ideas on what should be accomplished during the session: more investment ins small business and business recruitment, education reform, public safety and child welfare initiatives.  Other issues may include right to work, social promotion, and repeal of drivers licenses for the undocumented.  Democratic lawmakers have already introduced three separate bills calling for an increase in minimum wage.

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January 20th, 2015: Local Headlines

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Members of the Southwest New Mexico Quilters Guild recently presented local veterans with a Quilt of Valor.  These quilts are crafted by volunteers who put their hearts and souls into every stitch with exacting standards set forth from a national organization.  Special thanks go out to all those involved in getting the quilts for local veterans: to Carol Pickoring, president of the Southwest New Mexico Quilters Guild, Terri Sommers, long-arm quilter, and Jude Casco, QOV coordinator for the Quilters Guild. And of course the Veterans that received these quilts, Eugene Lewis USMC, Jep Housley USCG and Cliff Tavernier USAF.

The Cobre Consolidated Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a contract extension of two years for Superintendent Robert Mendoza at their meeting last week.  Mendoza will see an increase in salary under the contract extension.  Also at the meeting, the board heard from Tony Sosa, the district’s truancy prevention specialist, as well as student representative Jose Rubio.

Conservationists have sued the federal government over changes recently made to the Mexican Grey Wolf reintroduction program.  Under new changes, the wolves will be free to roam a much larger area of New Mexico and Arizona, from I-40 to the Mexican border, and more of the endangered wolves will be released from captivity.  The Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife say limiting the number of wolves to 325 doesn’t allow for species recovery, and believe the wolves should be allowed access to habitat north of the interstate.

Deming resident and racehorse trainer Umberto Belloc and trainer of JM Miracle, the thoroughbred who won the 2014 All-American Futurity on Labor Day last year, is up for the American Quarter Horse Association Racing Champions Award.  Belloc has been nominated for numerous awards including “2014 Trainer of the Year.”  The awards will be held tomorrow in Oklahoma City.  A live stream of the Awards will be aired at www.aqharacing.com at 5 pm Wednesday.

Southern New Mexico will be under a Winter Weather Watch Wednesday night through Thursday night as a pair of cold fronts push across southern New Mexico and far west Texas.  The system will result in scattered to numerous mountain snow showers and lowland rain showers.  The storm is expected to leave the area Friday morning.  The Winter Storm Watch will affect the southern Gila Highlands, Black Range, East Slopes of the Sacramento Mountains and the cities of Silver City, Lake Roberts, Fort Bayard, Kingston, and Hillsboro.

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January 19th, 2015: Local Headlines

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On Friday, US Senator Tom Udall delivered a speech on the Senate floor against a bill to mandate approval of the Keystone Pipeline.  Udall said that Congress should not intervene in approving a pipeline for a foreign corporation.  Udall then called on Congress to set priorities for developing a clean energy economy, with a broader energy policy that includes oil and gas, but also emphasizes renewable energy and new technology.

Gila Regional Medical Center recently announced the completion of the transition of Emergency Room care at the hospital to Innova.  Innova is a regional ER provider group that has been recognized as an innovator in patient care by using a physician staffing model to attract fresh, talented and leading-edge physicians to emergency departments.  The group has established new programs that measures the time it takes a provider to first see a patient in the ER.  Goals at GRMC include seeing each patient in less than 15 minutes on average, and to have an average length of stay in the ER of less than two hours.

A recent study ranks New Mexico as one of the riskiest places to drive.  According to the report, people are driving too fast, not driving in the correct lane, and driving in the slow lane when they should be in the fast lane.  New Mexico is also known for worse offenses such as drinking and driving.  The study shows that New Mexico nearly tops a list of states for uninsured driving.

Candidates for the Deming Public School Board recently gathered to introduce themselves and answer questions from the public.  District 4 incumbent Anderson Bayne spoke of the challenges the schools currently face, including single mothers, grandparents raising families, drug and alcohol abuse and teacher shortages.  He also reported the districts high national rating and the improvements in schools which had previously received low scores.  District 4 candidate Fred Williams said he would like to see a school readiness program in Luna County.  District 5 candidate Ruben Torrez wants to ensure all of Deming Public School students go on to graduate from high school.  Francine Jacobs, District 5 candidate and graduate of a large school system, offers a different viewpoint on how to better local schools.  The third District 5 candidate, Don Heacox, wants to tackle community issues such as discouragement and respect.  John Staehle, District 3 candidate, hopes to see more participation on the board itself and Matt Robinson, also District 3, says he would like to see the school get involved with advancing technologies, programming and computer science courses, and improved communications with the community.

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January 16th, 2015: MRAC Presents Dan Bern

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The Mimbres Region Arts Council is pleased to present Dan Bern as part of the 2014/15 Indie Folk Series.  ‘Dan Bern is best known for his prolific songwriting and electric and live persona. He has released eighteen albums since 1997 and built a loyal following based on prodigious touring and output of songs in all forms. Since 2007, Bern has also focused his talent and sharp wit on writing songs for movies and other projects. He composed over a dozen songs for the Jake Kasdan/Judd Apatow spoof-biopic Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and composed songs included in Apatow’s Get Him to the Greek, starring Russell Brand.’

Dan Bern will perform Saturday, January 17th, at 7:30 pm at the Buckhorn Opera House in Pinos Altos.  Tickets are available at mimbresarts.org, and additional information about the artist can be found at danbern.com.

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