On a Sunday afternoon over Labor Day weekend, a masked man, armed with a gun, burst through the doors of an Albuquerque medical cannabis dispensary. About two minutes later, he walked back out the door, with an estimated $5,000 worth of cannabis products. In that time, the man hopped over a glass display case and corralled employees and at least one patient into one spot while he emptied a large jar of cannabis—and seconds later cannabis concentrates from the display case—into a bag. After he left, the man got into a car waiting in the back and sped off.
Sitting before the state legislature’s interim committee on radioactive and hazardous materials, Walter Bradley told lawmakers to look at a red dot on a colored map provided to each member.
“That red dot is a $20 million dairy facility that is now worth zero,” Bradley, who handles government and business affairs for Dairy Farmers of America, told committee members. “There’s no money, [the farmer] can’t sell his milk, he can’t sell his cows, he’s completely bankrupt. That dot is right next to the Cannon Air Force Base fire training facility.”
Bradley, who was Lieutenant Governor under Gary Johnson, spoke alongside Stephanie Stringer, director of New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) resource protection division, to give the interim committee an update on the PFAS contamination issues in the state before the next legislative session.
PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are toxic, human-manufactured chemicals that can move through groundwater and biological systems. Human exposure to PFAS increases the risk of testicular, kidney and thyroid cancers as well as other severe illnesses. The chemicals were used in firefighting foam in military bases across the country, including at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases, until 2016. The Air Force began investigating PFAS discharges across its installations in 2015, and the chemicals were detected in 2018 in groundwater at Cannon Air Force Base, located west of Clovis and at Holloman Air Force Base, located west of Alamogordo.
Voters in several municipalities across New Mexico voted Tuesday, marking the first consolidation of elections under a new state law.
Albuquerque voters picked city council candidates, school board members and voted on a long list of municipal bonds. Albuquerque voters also weighed-in on two campaign finance propositions — one was for a voucher program for publicly financed candidates and the other was a proposal to increase funds for publicly financed candidates.
But one of the closely watched races in Albuquerque was in the city’s District 2, where incumbent Isaac Benton ran against five other challengers. Benton failed to clear 50 percent, and will face Zack Quintero in a run-off election next month.
The contention between the two seemed to overshadow the rest of the candidates as a measure finance committee—the city’s version of a political action committee—which supported Benton ran a series of mailers accusing Quintero of misrepresenting his work history. One of those mailers had a picture of Quintero superimposed on the body of a cook, with the words, “ZACK QUINTERO DIDN’T INVENT CHRISTMAS ENCHILADAS.” The mailer was one of a series that accused Quintero of inflating his job responsibilities while working for the City of Santa Fe. The series of mailers also included one with Quintero’s face superimposed on the body of an astronaut.
The unofficial results on Tuesday night showed Quintero with about 20 percent of the vote and Benton with about 42 percent.
A high-profile ballot question in Albuquerque endorsed by three Democratic presidential candidates failed on Tuesday in a high-turnout election. With all precincts reporting, the unofficial results showed “No” winning with 51.25 percent of the vote in unofficial results.
The Democracy Dollars ballot initiative would have shored up the city’s public financing program and allowed city residents to direct vouchers of $25 for qualified candidates.
Related: Two ABQ council races likely headed for a runoff election
Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren each lent their support to the proposal, with the latter two doing so on Election Day. And Castro endorsed it on Oct. 29, as early voting was about to end. By Election Day, nearly 44,000 voters had cast ballots on the question, either through early or absentee voting—more than cast ballots on Election Day.
A company previously owned by the now-deceased and disgraced former financier Jeffrey Epstein will relinquish its grazing leases around its New Mexico ranch. The State Land Office announced in September it would cancel the leases. On Friday the office announced a settlement with the company, Cypress Inc.
“I am pleased that the State Land Office is no longer in business with Cypress Inc., and especially proud that we were able to save State resources by resolving this matter outside of the courtroom,” State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said in a statement. “My decision to cancel these leases stands, and my staff and I will move forward with our discussions for future uses of the 1,200 acres of state trust land located near the Zorro Ranch.”
The cancellation of the lease is effective as of October 4 of this year. Epstein died of an apparent suicide, though some say it was a homicide, while in jail awaiting charges of sex trafficking.
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. In early August, Elizabeth Petersen was home-schooling her children in the kitchen of their northern Idaho home when she got a call from Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where her 4-year-old son, Paul, was set to have surgery a few weeks later. Since having a stroke around his first birthday, Paul had been under treatment to restore use of the right side of his body. He had recently graduated from a feeding tube and needed surgery to close a hole in his stomach.