Effort to curb panhandling in ABQ targets activity in street medians, sidewalks

An Albuquerque city councilor wants to take a crack at enforcing tougher restrictions on panhandling. Councilor Trudy Jones this week introduced a measure that would ban people from walking and standing in street medians and engaging with drivers and passengers from the sidewalk except in cases of emergencies. Jones’ proposed ordinance would also bar drivers from stopping in a street or intersection “for the sole purpose of interacting with any pedestrian” except in the case of an emergency. City law already bars people from soliciting on a street, highway, entrance or exit ramp for a ride or work. Loiterers are also currently banned from holding parking spaces for cars that are in the process of parking in exchange for money.

Embezzlement, perjury part of 22 new charges against ex-state senator

This week, a grand jury charged former state Sen. Phil Griego with 22 new criminal counts centering mostly on embezzlement and perjury for allegedly using campaign money for personal use and lying about it. In total, Griego faces 19 new felonies and three misdemeanors. This adds to the nine previous corruption counts Griego was charged with last summer by a district court judge in Santa Fe. Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office is prosecuting Griego. The new charges include 13 perjury counts, each of which are fourth-degree felonies, for lying on several of his campaign finance reports between 2012 and 2015.

New deportation rules claim mother, with no chance for goodbyes

Jeff Taborda lives in a faded green trailer in an old, but neatly kept mobile  home community in north Las Cruces. Taborda, 23, graduated in December from New Mexico State University with a degree in criminal justice, with ambitions to go into law enforcement and eventually join the FBI. He is lean and muscular, working out regularly with his younger brother, Steven. The home Taborda shares with his girlfriend is sparsely furnished, clean dishes in a rack in the sink. “As soon as I eat, I do the dishes,” he told visitors on a recent 100-degree  afternoon.

City of ABQ files protection order against mayoral hopeful’s daughter

The theatrics continued with a lawsuit from Stella Padilla, who wants to run for mayor, alleging  Albuquerque’s city clerk failed to properly count petition signatures. The City of Albuquerque filed a protective order Monday against Stella Padilla’s daughter alleging the daughter twice harassed and tried to intimidate City Clerk Natalie Howard. Padilla originally sued  Howard in her official capacity as city clerk, alleging her office improperly vetted campaign petition signatures. An affidavit outlines two encounters Howard had with Padilla’s daughter, Vanessa Benavidez, over the past two months. In the affidavit, which lists Benavidez’s last name as Padilla, Howard wrote that Benavidez arrived at the city clerk’s office to serve Howard with a copy of the original complaint.

Youth aren’t just watching, they’re running for office

Everybody has an opinion on millennials. Young people in their 20s and early 30s are often described by older generations as overly sensitive, technology-addicted, cynical kids who constantly need feedback and flexible work schedules. News stories, essays and polls have sought a better understanding of the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s. With titles like “3 Reasons Why Millennials Are Timid Leaders” and “Why do millennials keep leaking government secrets?”, it’s not surprising there might be a lack of faith in the upcoming workforce, especially in politics. In Albuquerque, two young men say there is a place for 20-somethings in politics.

Black community wants answers on ATF’s Albuquerque sting, says it was ‘punch in the face’

Black community leaders and citizens want to know who invited out-of-town federal agents and informants into Albuquerque and how the decision was made to focus an undercover sting operation on an impoverished, largely minority section of the city, netting a highly disproportionate number of black defendants. They plan to put those and other questions into a letter to the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We want to know exactly what happened and why,” said Patrick Barrett, a member of the two organizations drafting the letter — the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Sankofa Men’s Leadership Exchange, a grassroots organization of black men. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Barrett and others interviewed for this story were reacting to a NMID investigation of the sting published last month.

Beyond the compromise: How legislators and the governor balanced the budget with a dirty band-aid

For most of this year, the budget was the hottest topic for legislators and the governor. Both branches battled, then came to an agreement no one seems enthusiastic about. The deal suggested by Gov. Susana Martinez essentially amounted to using bonding money normally reserved for state infrastructure to balance the budget. State lawmakers request the bonding money for state infrastructure projects. Issuing bonds works like a home mortgage: the state borrows money backed by oil and gas revenue and pays it back with interest over the years. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said the funding method “sets a poor precedent” while Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said he didn’t “like to do this either.”

And yet, the plan passed with a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives and just two dissenting votes in the Senate.

Legislature sues governor, says ten vetoes are invalid

The Legislature asked a state district court Monday to invalidate 10 vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez of bills state lawmakers passed during this year’s regular session. The petition filed with the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe came after the Legislative Council voted to approve it earlier this year. A spokesman for the governor said the legal challenge is “another example of out-of-touch Santa Fe trial lawyers wasting time and taxpayer money going to court when they don’t get what they want.”

Democrats say Martinez violated the state constitution by not explaining why she vetoed the 10 bills. The complaint describes the two categories of vetoes:  Half of the bills were vetoed within three days after being presented to the governor. But the governor did not include her “objections” as required  by the state constitution.

State faces new open records suit over pay to guv’s favored attorney

A lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in Santa Fe District Court aims to uncover how much New Mexico taxpayers shelled out for a private attorney to represent Gov. Susana Martinez’s office in a number of court cases. Journalist Jeff Proctor* filed the lawsuit against the state’s General Services Department (GSD) for not releasing attorney Paul Kennedy’s invoices for his public work, claiming the department failed to comply with the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). The suit calls for the state to release specific invoices and bills that show how much the state has paid Kennedy to represent Martinez as contract counsel in several cases. In addition to retaining Kennedy, Martinez also has access to four state employed legal staff, whose combined salaries total $341,850. The lawsuit states by not releasing Kennedy’s billing records GSD not only violated the open records law, “but also offend the spirit and intent of the law governing matters of public concern.”

That spirit of the law, said Proctor’s lawyer Frank Davis, “is to make sure we have an informed electorate.”

“We need to know where dollars are being spent,” Davis said.

ICE transfers transgender detainees to New Mexico

A group of transgender women detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were recently transferred to New Mexico from a detention center in California. In a detention center in Milan, the women are housed in a pod together. ICE transferred the dozen or so women in early May to Cibola County Detention Center in Milan from a similar facility in Santa Ana, California, where ICE made its first dedicated transgender module. Since then, advocacy organizations for immigrants and transgender rights in New Mexico have taken notice. Adrian Lawyer, co-director of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, said his organization reached out to the detainees and recently toured the Cibola County facility.