We are going to be counting down the top ten stories of the year now and after Christmas. In this installment, we are looking at the number 10 through number 6 stories of the year.
Then, starting on December 26, we will count down the top five stories of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team. Tune in each morning to see what the next story is.
We are counting down the top ten stories through the end of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team. Tune in each morning to see what the next story is.
10. Albuquerque/Las Cruces city elections
Elections in New Mexico’s two largest cities garnered considerable attention in 2015. In Albuquerque, four City Council seats were up for grabs, but only two had more than one candidate. In District 4, incumbent Brad Winter won his race against Israel Chavez. District 6 saw Pat Davis* emerge victorious in a three-way race. Not surprisingly, both Davis and Winter won by large margins. Voters in Albuquerque also decided on bond issues, but most eyes were on a gross receipts tax aimed at giving more money to the BioPark.
Las Cruces not only held an election for city councilors, but also for its mayor. Mayor Ken Miyagishima won a reelection, but most of the attention was on the fact that a federal PAC spent tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to defeat progressive candidates.
9. Capital outlay dispute forces special session
While capital outlay is not always as attention-grabbing as marijuana or unethical behavior from elected officials, it was one of the the reasons Gov. Susana Martinez called for a special session in 2015. Trouble with passing a capital outlay bill started when Senate Democrats and House Republicans began blaming one another for failed negotiations.
After some adjustments from the House, the amended bill stalled in the Senate just minutes before the session ended. For weeks after the 2015 session ended, many speculated whether or not time was up on capital outlay. Ultimately, the legislature managed to pass a capital outlay bill in less than six hours and Martinez signed the nearly $300 million bill.
8. Marijuana news
New Mexico got in the action—sort of—of the national discussions on loosening of marijuana laws. Even before the 2015 session, there were talks of introducing legislation that would have changed how possession of marijuana was viewed in the eyes of law enforcement. While decriminalization bills didn’t make it very far in the Roundhouse, some Albuquerque officials tried their own hand at lowering penalties. Still, Mayor Richard Berry, just as he said he would, vetoed the proposal.
The state’s medical marijuana industry saw some changes with out of state companies moving in on some local companies. The state’s Department of Health also approved a new batch of producers, but in usual fashion did not release names. Thanks to an intrepid enterprise reporter, not only did New Mexicans learn who had applied to become producers, but it was revealed that longtime anti-marijuana advocate Darren White was getting in on the action. The state also saw some movement in terms of rule changes. The Department of Health recently announced proposed changes that would affect how plants are tested and what producer information is deemed public.
7. Jaquise Lewis shooting and fallout
Two months after a March mass shooting at Los Altos Skate Park, Albuquerque police held a press conference placing part of the blame of the tragedy on 17-year-old Jaquise Lewis, the only person who died that night.
Police also said Lewis’ shooter killed him in self defense and wouldn’t identify or press charges against the man. But throughout the summer, both Lewis’ mother and media outlets sought a cell phone video of the incident obtained by police. Citing an ongoing investigation of the incident, the city refused to hand over the video.
Meanwhile, people with Lewis that night came forward and disputed the police narrative of his role in the shooting. Lewis’ mother took the city to court for violating the state Inspection of Public Records Act. In December, she won.
Now released, the video doesn’t show Lewis shoot anyone—he’s out of the camera’s view during the two gunshots that police say he fired and struck someone with. But what is clear is when Lewis’ shooter fires eight rounds as Lewis is walking—then running—away with his back turned. Lewis’ family is now calling on the District Attorney to press charges against his shooter. The attorney representing Lewis’ family says the video shows the self defense claims by police have no merit.
6. Phil Griego resigns from Senate
The only things that travel faster in the Roundhouse than a piece of legislation that is “greased” by leadership of both parties are rumors. And the rumors were flying around the Roundhouse with reckless abandon in mid-March, centering on one person: Phil Griego.
On March 14, Griego resigned ahead of a possible vote on removal from office. It all came down to Griego benefiting from a deal that was made possible by a Senate vote in the previous year (he did not personally vote on it). This violated what Griego called “an obscure provision of the New Mexico Constitution governing the timing of actions by citizen-legislators in their private business lives.”
His story didn’t end there, however, as his post-resignation campaign spending raised eyebrows and even had the acting Secretary of State asking for information from the former Senator.
Methodology: By consensus, the three members of NM Political Report came up with the top-ten stories the year, focusing on those that we covered extensively. From that list of ten, each person listed their rankings from one to ten. We used the average of those rankings to make the list.