The acting U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque will hear out local black leaders and their concerns over a massive, 2016 undercover sting operation that “sent shockwaves” through the city’s black community. Acting U.S. Attorney James Tierney agreed to meet in a July 11 letter to the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the grassroots Sankofa Men’s Leadership Exchange. The groups’ leadership contacted Tierney after a series of stories by New Mexico In Depth that examined the operation conducted by the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. The operation scooped up 28 African Americans — out of 103 arrested — or 27 percent, an “alarming” statistic, Dr. Harold Bailey noted in the NAACP’s letter.
NM Political Report senior reporter joined the crew at KUNM-FM Thursday morning to discuss the growing scandal over food benefits applications. Multiple workers testified in federal court that supervisors and high-ranking officials instructed them to falsify applications by adding assets to make sure applicants no longer qualified for emergency, or expedited, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, funding. Peters was one of just two reporters to cover the latest hearing in Las Cruces. Listen to Peters’ appearance on the KUNM Call-In show below; he is on the show at the beginning. The allegations led to one state senator to call for HSD Secretary Brent Earnest to resign.
The KUNM call-in show for this week focused on the recently-ended legislative session. The station invited Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Milan Simonich, New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry President Jason Espinoza, New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Susan Boe and this writer to discuss transparency issues and more. We discussed the failure of an ethics commission, the budget situation, the general tone of the Roundhouse during the session and more. As always, there were some entertaining callers and host Gwyneth Doland kept things moving along. You can listen to the entire thing below, courtesy of KUNM.
—John Arthur Smith gave a very pessimistic overview of the budget Friday morning. And, of course, someone brought up marijuana as a potential revenue source for New Mexico. The conservative Democrat from Deming was, shall we say skeptical. “I think there’s some real questions about how legit that revenue stream is for Colorado,” Smith said. He went on to add that “there’s no brilliant idea out there right now” to fix everything.
After speaking with contacts at the White House and receiving a briefing on the security process, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said that Albuquerque would welcome Syrian refugees if the federal government chooses to send refugees from the war-torn country to the city. Berry made the comments while calling into the KUNM Call-In show on Thursday. “It won’t really be up to the mayors whether they do or don’t come to your city but if Syrian refugees get here, just like Rwandan refugees, Cuban refugees, Vietnamese or whatever country comes next—unfortunately there’s always some need—we’ll do what we always do,” Berry said. “New Mexico is a big-hearted place and we’ll welcome them to our home like it’s theirs and we’ll work with them.” Berry said that after initial comments where he said he was not confident in the security process, he reached out to contacts in the White House and received a briefing.
New Mexico Political Report senior reporter Joey Peters appeared on KUNM Tuesday afternoon to talk about the scandal enveloping Albuquerque Public Schools. Peters was on during All Things Considered on Tuesday and spoke about being the first to report on the mistaken text message APS superintendent Luis Valentino sent to Chief Financial Officer Don Moya and how he was the first to report that former APS deputy superintendent Jason Martinez is facing trial in Colorado for sexual abuse of a child. Audio of the five-minute conversation with Elaine Baumgartel is available on KUNM’s website. While the story started with the text message sent by Valentino to Moya, when the text message appeared to be meant for Public Education Department secretary Hanna Skandera, it quickly ballooned beyond that. Martinez was then accused of attempting to steer a possible contract for an IT assessment toward the technology company of a former work colleague, one who was fired from Denver Public Schools for accepting kickbacks.
A bill uncontroversial on its face about payday loans became the focal point of yet another drawn-out skirmish in the House. Members of the two political parties argued pros and cons of more stringent regulations for entities that offer payday and other high-interest small loans. Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Corrales, presented HB 356, her proposal to update the state’s Small Loan Act to include additional rules for lenders who offer increasingly common tax refund anticipation checks. The bill ultimately passed on a 38-25 vote. Powdrell-Culbert said she proposed the legislation after hearing concerns expressed in committee meetings about the high interest rates charged by tax refund lenders, the majority of whom provide services to low-income people.