Climate rally in ABQ includes calls for action

Thousands of students walked out of school and adults left work across New Mexico as part of massive international climate protests. In Albuquerque a large crowd took part in large a rally downtown  on Friday with hundreds, likely over 1,000, people. The rally included local artists, politicians and students speaking about the impact of climate change and the need to immediately address it. Most of the speakers were local youth. Alyssa Ruiz, the founder of the Sandia High School Climate Club, spoke to the crowd and called on zero emissions by 2050.

Trump administration transfers land to Army to build border wall

The Trump administration announced Thursday it transferred  560 acres of land administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior to the U.S. Army to pave the way for the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico—including some land in New Mexico. The land in New Mexico includes a 170 acre parcel that includes parts of Luna and Hidalgo counties for “replacement of existing vehicle barrier with pedestrian barrier.” An additional 43 acres in Hidalgo County is slated for “construction of new primary and secondary pedestrian barriers.”

The announcement by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said the transfer would allow the construction of about 70 miles of border barriers. 

The move comes after the Trump administration diverted $3.6 billion in funding for military projects to fund the controversial border wall. “Absent this action, national security and natural resource values will be lost,” Bernhardt said. “The impacts of this crisis are vast and must be aggressively addressed with extraordinary measures.”

Of the $3.6 billion in diverted military funds, $125 million comes from projects slated for New Mexico, at Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range. Thursday’s move drew immediate condemnation from members of New Mexico’s federal delegation.

A win for the state’s last wild river

Environmentalists, business owners and sportsmen cheered after a victory in protecting the state’s last free-flowing river. Grant County Commissioners voted to adopt a resolution last week to support protecting portions of the Gila and San Francisco rivers and tributaries under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 establishes protections for free-flowing waterways in the U.S. The designation protects rivers that offer “outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values” by preserving them and prohibiting further development in the area. Rivers or portions of rivers can be designated wild and scenic through legislation, or through the U.S. Department of Interior. 

“A wild and scenic river designation is the highest form of protection for a river,” Joey Keefe, communications coordinator for New Mexico Wild, told NM Political Report. “This proposal would protect various segments of the Gila and San Francisco rivers in their current free-flowing state — the completely undammed, undeveloped parts of the river are what we’re looking at and trying to protect those segments for future generations.”

The resolution was the result of grassroots efforts by the Gila River Wild and Scenic Coalition to protect the Gila River.

ABQ city councilors introduce gun legislation

Three Albuquerque city councilors announced they filed three proposed ordinances related to gun possession in the council chambers, storage of guns and threats of violence online. 

Councilors Pat Davis, Isaac Benton and Diane Gibson held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to present their proposals. 

One ordinance would prohibit guns at functions like city council or county commission meetings and public forums, like town hall meetings with constituents. 

Gibson said many city meetings get heated and some of her constituents have expressed concern for their safety.   

“Many of these gatherings involve a lot of emotions, people are very passionate,” Gibson said. “It’s already a highly charged situation at many of these venues.”

Another ordinance would make it a misdemeanor to leave a gun accessible to others without some sort of lock or device that would prevent the use of it. 

“When you lay a gun down and walk away, we want to be sure it’s not accesible for a kid who can use it, someone who commits suicide or a bad guy who sees it as a target to take,” Davis said. 

Davis, a former police officer, added that simply locking it in a vehicle would not be compliant with the proposal, noting that many guns are stolen out of owners’ cars. 

“If it’s in your car it just needs to be secure and so it can’t be operable,” Davis said. “You can’t shoot a gun that doesn’t shoot bullets.”

The third ordinance would extend a city ordinance prohibiting threats of violence to online platforms. 

One Albuquerque attorney said the councilors would be violating the state constitution if the proposals passed. 

Blair Dunn, who has a history of suing state agencies, said he’s already preparing a case against the councilors. 

“They can’t do it, it’s against the constitution,” Dunn said. 

Indeed, New Mexico’s constitution includes a provision that only allows gun laws on the state level. 

But during the councilor’s press conference, Davis said he and his colleagues are prepared to defend their legislation. 

“We believe we have a defendable case and we’re willing to take it as far as we have to in order to keep our city safe,” Davis said. 

Dunn is already representing a group that is suing New Mexico’s secretary of state and attorney general for denying an attempt to overturn a state gun law through a petition process. 

Regardless, the proposals will need more support than from the three councilors to get a shot at passing.

Amid back and forth court filings, DOH not issuing medical cannabis cards to non-residents

The issue of whether non-residents of New Mexico can enroll in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program is still not settled. A flurry of three motions were filed in three days in a civil case over whether non-New Mexico residents are eligible for state medical cannabis cards. The New Mexico Department of Health filed a motion last week asking a state judge to reconsider his decision to compel the state to issue medical cannabis cards to anyone with a qualifying condition, regardless of where they live. On the same day, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and DOH jointly filed a motion asking a judge to stay, or hold off on, his order for DOH to issue cards to non-residents. Then, on Monday, the three petitioners who originally argued they were due medical cannabis cards even though they live outside New Mexico filed a motion calling for the program’s director to be held in contempt of court. 

The court case started in July when two Texas residents and an Arizona resident who is the CEO and president of a New Mexico medical cannabis asked a judge to force the state to issue the three petitioners medical cards.

State Sen. Carlos Cisneros dies

Long-time State Sen. Carlos Cisneros passed away on Tuesday. He was 71. The Senate Democratic caucus said the cause of death was a heart attack. State Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, announced the news on Twitter Tuesday. “Very sad to report that my colleague, Senator Carlos Cisneros, passed away earlier today,” Padilla wrote.

Trump rallies in Rio Rancho, vows to flip NM in 2020

President Donald Trump visited New Mexico Monday for the first time since he took office and he hit all the notes he usually does in his winding, 90-minute speech, including talk of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, attacking what he calls fake news and lambasting politicians he calls corrupt. 

Within minutes, a protester was removed from the event. “Looks like someone’s going home to mommy,” Trump said of the protester. 

The president, as he often does at rallies, boasted about the number of his supporters who come out to see him speak. 

“We tried to get the biggest arena we could get, but it’s never big enough,” Trump added. 

The Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, which holds 7,500 for concerts, was indeed full. 

According to news reports ahead of Trump’s visit, his campaign believes he can win New Mexico in 2020. 

Trump used the state’s oil and gas industry as an example of why he thinks Democrats’ Green New Deal will be bad for New Mexico. If the plan were to pass, he said, there would be no air travel or cows and families would be forced to stay at home. 

“They’ll call us the hermit nation, we’ll never be able to leave the house,” he said. 

When he wasn’t praising his own administration, Trump took aim at Democrats, although he didn’t call out any local Demcratic lawmakers by name. 

Related: As Trump speaks, Democrats rally miles away

“Democrats want us to be subservient,” he said. 

But he did take a shot at U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who he has, in the past, called “Pochahontas” after she claimed Native American heritage. 

“I have more Indian blood than she does, and I have none,” Trump said of the top-tier Democratic presidential candidate. 

Multiple times throughout the night, Trump’s criticisms of the news media prompted most of the crowd to turn around towards the media enclosure and boo. The terms “fake news” was thrown around, both by crowd members and Trump himself. “The Democrat Party and the press, the media, the lame stream media, they’re partners,” Trump said.

Hundreds gather for tear-filled Charles Daniels memorial

Hundreds of people gathered Sunday morning to honor the life, career and accomplishments of the former Chief Justice Charles “Charlie” Daniels. 

As an early morning rain began to dissipate, friends, family and colleagues shuffled into Albuquerque’s Popejoy Hall to pay their respects. The crowd included a who’s who in political and legal circles. 

Daniels died September 1 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke at the memorial and said she first met Daniels through his passion for music, which he regularly played at bars and restaurants across the state.  

“I got to know what a kind and generous and funny person Charlie Daniels is,” Lujan Grisham said. 

The governor also dedicated September 15 to the memory of Daniels. 

Speakers fought through tears to tell heartfelt and funny stories about Daniels’ almost 50-year legal career. The theme of the morning was that Daniels was serious while simultaneously funny. 

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Nakamura recounted Daniels’ devotion to making sure the high court remained open to the public, despite financially difficult times for the state. “He modeled frugality by removing half of the lightbulbs in the Supreme Court’s halls, leaving us walking in the dark and writing on the back of scratch paper, using free pens that he picked up at banks and hotels, not just to save the state a few dollars, but to demonstrate that we were committed to do whatever we needed to do to keep the courts open and accessible,” Nakamura said. 

She added that he was usually the first person to arrive at the Supreme Court building, with little patience for inclimate weather excuses from others. 

“He often reminded both the justices as well as our court staff, ‘Pay attention to the laws of physics and don’t be a snow wussy,'” Nakamura said. 

In addition to his legal career, Daniels played in a band with other legal professionals called “Lawyers, Guns and Money” and for the past 20 years in a band called “The Incredible Woodpeckers.” Retired state District Judge Tommy Jewell and former bandmate of Daniels’ recounted a proposed band name Daniels came up with, illustrating the justice’s sense of humor. 

“We struggled with a name,” Jewell said.

Alt-right groups rally, outnumbered by counterprotesters

At a rally organized by a far-right, pro-Trump organization, the ralliers were outnumbered five-to-one from counterprotesters. The rally largely went off without any incident beyond the two groups shouting and chanting at each other. 

The protest was organized as a “Freedom First Flag Wave” by Bradley Burris, a New Mexico resident who hosted a Proud Boys podcast earlier this year. About 20 people at its peak showed up for that rally, some wearing helmets and other protective gear, while about 100 showed up at the counterprotest. The Proud Boys were joined by members of the Hiwaymen, a neo-confederate group. One person was detained afterward two blocks west of the rally.

Toulouse Oliver releases gun safety plan

A Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful released a gun plan Friday that includes support for an assault weapons ban and universal and expanded background checks. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she also supports enacting red flag laws and raising the minimum age to purchase a rifle to 21. 

“This epidemic has claimed the lives of too many innocent Americans–far too many of them children–and it is well beyond time for Congress to act to protect Americans from the scourge of gun violence,” Toulouse Oliver said in her gun safety plan. “In the U.S. Senate, I will fight for common-sense gun-safety legislation as if my own children’s lives depended on it–because they do.”

Toulouse Oliver cites the rise in mass shootings, including the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that left more than 30 people dead and dozens more injured, as reasons why to reimplement a ban on assault weapons—and to expand the definition of assault weapons to include AR-15-style guns. When it comes to background checks, Toulouse Oliver says they should extend to all gun purchases—and that such background checks should include information on the online history of the person seeking a background check and extending background checks to close relatives and other members of the household. Toulouse Oliver also calls for restoring funding for researching the effects of gun violence. 

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich has sought to repeal the Dickey Amendment, which bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence and its impact on public health.