After lashing out on Facebook at “leftists” for “getting exactly what they asked for” just a day after a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent, Doña Ana County Republican Party chairman Roman Jimenez has resigned. Jimenez posted his thoughts on the county party’s Facebook page. Almost immediately, people across the state called for Jimenez to resign or for the county party to remove him from his position. Criticism came from Democrats and Republicans alike, including the state Republican Party chairman. On Tuesday afternoon, Victor Contreras announced he would take over the Doña Ana County chair position until the county central committee meets to find a permanent replacement.
As reporters, we have a lot of questions about the state of education here in New Mexico. Most people have strong opinions, and sometimes fiery debates can obscure the deeper issue of why New Mexico’s students aren’t faring as well as they should. Last week we published stories about education in New Mexico leading up to the start of the school year. We wanted to cut through the rhetoric and understand where schools and students are succeeding and where more work is needed. Unfortunately, those stories about education were missing one significant voice—the state’s Public Education Department (PED).
Many New Mexico children have either just started their school year or are preparing to start soon. This month students will prepare for school, new books, new teachers and their respective dirty looks. The state Public Education Department (PED) rates schools with an A-F grading system to identify which need ones need improvement—and schools with persistently low grades could experience major overhauls. That’s causing alarm among some teachers, especially in rural communities. This week the U.S. Education Department officially accepted New Mexico’s education plan, which is required under a 2015 federal law—and includes provisions that could shut down or revamp schools in remote areas where schools are scarce to begin with.
Glen Thamert wears a perpetual smile and favors a hug over a handshake. The retired Lutheran minister has lived in Jemez Springs since 2001 and raised both his adult children in Albuquerque. Next month will mark 29 years since Thamert was acquitted in an Albuquerque federal courtroom after helping two women, whose lives were in danger, leave their home country of El Salvador. Thamert’s trial was part of the sanctuary movement that sprung up in the 1980s when military forces killed hundreds of thousands of people in Central and South America. Community leaders and others often use the word “altruistic” to describe him.
Out-of-state money in local elections is nothing new. Statewide and legislative races in New Mexico are often funded, to varying degrees, by individuals or Political Action Committees from other parts of the country. With less than three months before the mayoral race, candidates are filing their campaign contribution reports with varying donation amounts from around New Mexico—and in some cases all around the country. Both New Mexico and Albuquerque campaign finance laws allow for out of city and out of state contributions. Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Viki Harrison said members of the public may not like the idea of out-of-state money funding a mayoral campaign, but that ultimately without a clear instance of quid pro quo it’s allowed.
A New Mexico advocacy group supporting criminal justice reform efforts released its report card Wednesday on legislation from the 2017 regular legislative session. Specifically, the group, NM SAFE, analyzed legislation aimed at changing criminal penalties. At a press conference, a few members of the group spoke about the analysis and what it means for New Mexico. Tanya Romero with the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families said the state needs more reforms instead of tougher criminal penalties. “Domestic violence, a good percentage of it, is through historical trauma,” Romero said.
Last week Albuquerque resident and Iraqi refugee Kadhim Albumohammed, through his lawyer, announced he would seek religious sanctuary instead of submitting to federal detention by immigration officials. In a letter delivered by his lawyer, Albumohammed informed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of his location but opted against publicly announcing where he is living. The idea of seeking refuge in a religious facility to avoid detention from immigration officials actually comes from ICE itself. In 2011, then-ICE director John Morton issued a memo to the agency’s field officers, agents and legal counsel, providing guidance on “sensitive locations,” or areas where agents should not make arrests except under extraordinary circumstances. It’s unclear to what extent ICE is monitoring Albumohammed’s location, but in a statement last week, the agency made it clear they are taking Albumohammed’s case seriously.
An Albuquerque resident and Iraqi refugee facing federal detention sought religious sanctuary instead of meeting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials this morning. Fearing detention, Kadhim Albumohammed, who has lawfully lived in the U.S. since 1994, did not show up to his scheduled meeting with ICE Thursday. Instead, his lawyer presented the federal agency with a letter stating Albumohammed’s intention to seek sanctuary at a local church. his attorney, Rebecca Kitson, said the church and the Albumohammed family requested privacy “in this very difficult and trying time,” but said ICE is fully aware of Albumohammed’s location. “He will be very transparent about his location and his choices,” Kitson told a crowd of a few hundred people outside an Albuquerque office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Office of the State Auditor released a report Wednesday showing a significant gap in pay between men and women in New Mexico. According to the report, women who are employed in managerial or policy making roles in New Mexico are paid on average 26 percent less than men in the same positions in the state. The smallest gap, according to the report, is in the service industry where women are still paid about 10 percent less than men. Besides pay gaps, the report also shows the “category for manual workers of relatively high skill level” is made up of only three percent women. In addition to showing the disparity between pay for men and women in the workforce, the auditor’s report also noted that the state’s General Services Department (GSD) has a “low compliance rate” with keeping and tracking reports submitted by state vendors.
Albuquerque resident Stella Padilla’s mayoral run is most likely over after the New Mexico Supreme Court denied her petition to overturn a state district court judge’s decision to dismiss her suit seeking to place her on the ballot. Padilla’s lawyer, Blair Dunn, told NM Political Report he may still take the issue to the state court of appeals, to “at least fix the law even though it won’t help Stella.”
For now though, Dunn said there is “no other real recourse” for his client. Dunn expressed his disappointment with the high court and their swift decision not to hear the case. Dunn filed the petition on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court denied it without explanation.