Dona Ana County maps out plan for early childhood education

Charlie Garcia is a bubbly 4-year-old with soft brown curls. Sitting down for a small group activity on a late-August afternoon at Alpha School in Las Cruces, she chatters with her teachers and friends. Sitting quietly nearby is Evelynn Aguirre McClure. Assistant teacher Brittany Polanco encourages the two girls and their classmate to build a house and fill it with drawings of their families. Using popsicle sticks, Polanco shows them how to make the outlines, flip the sticks over, glue them and then flip them back over so they stick to the paper.

Candidates question value of Mayor Berry’s ‘groundbreaking’ ABQ crime report

The “groundbreaking research” Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry commissioned on crime — the city’s No. 1 issue — may sit on a shelf unused when his successor takes office Dec. 1. Why? The two candidates headed for a mayoral runoff election next month, two-term Republican city councilor Dan Lewis and Democratic state Auditor Tim Keller, said the information about crime concentration likely won’t guide their crime-fighting plans if elected.

Hopes and fears: One DACA recipient’s story

Off to the side of Highway 10, somewhere in between Las Cruces and El Paso, Michel Nieves lives in a house with his parents and four siblings. Nieves, 20, and two older siblings have protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. His 16-year-old sister is awaiting approval. His 5-year-old sister is the only U.S. citizen in the household. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.

Video: Former U.S. Attorney offers few answers on controversial ATF sting

Damon Martinez says he would take “seriously” allegations of racial profiling and other questionable tactics alleged about a four-month federal drug and gun sting operation last year if he were still U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. But he won’t say how he viewed his responsibilities for the operation while in the job, which he held until March of this year. He won’t even say whether his former job would have included oversight of the increasingly controversial sting operation despite U.S. Department of Justice manuals describing some of those responsibilities. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. “I can’t discuss the facts concerning this case,” Martinez said of the 2016 operation, conducted largely by the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Money out, Money in: Candidates return money to city contractors, then their owners give

Albuquerque bans contributions to candidates for elective office from businesses or individuals who make money from city contracts, but that doesn’t prevent owners of those companies from giving to candidates in a different way. The practice is on stark display in a recent campaign report filed by mayoral candidate Brian Colón, who returned contributions from several companies with city contracts on September 12 and then accepted contributions from the owners of those companies about a week later. This story originally appeared on the New Mexico In Depth website and is reprinted with permission. Owners are allowed to give as individuals or through other companies they own. In his report filed September 22, Colón showed he had returned contributions from contractors identified previously to him by KOB Channel 4, reported by KOB on September 19.

Second Santolina backed group goes after ABQ council candidates

A new Santolina backed political committee popped up an electronic billboard and sent out mailers on Albuquerque’s west side late last week to support the re-election bid of City Councilor Ken Sanchez. Energize Albuquerque filed a campaign report showing a $20,000 contribution from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, the company seeking to create a massive master planned community in far west Bernalillo County that would be called Santolina. Over the past two weeks, another committee backed in part by Santolina developer Jeff Garrett, called Make Albuquerque Safe, blanketed the city with negative ads against mayoral candidate Tim Keller. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Both Energize Albuquerque and Make Albuquerque Safe are helmed by Denise Romero, Chairperson, and Donna Taylor, Treasurer.

Woman arrested in ATF sting pleads guilty for reduced sentence

Jennifer Padilla has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute meth in return for a two-year federal prison sentence. If a federal judge accepts the plea deal, the 39-year-old mother of five could be free in less than a year because of the 13 months she’s already spent in the Santa Fe County jail. Friday’s proposed sentence represents a significant reduction from the 10 or more years Padilla was facing behind bars. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. The plea agreement, negotiated between Padilla’s Santa Fe-based lawyer, L. Val Whitley, and federal prosecutors, came less than two months after Padilla alleged misconduct by a confidential informant in a 2016 operation conducted by the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Realtors and developers give big money to ABQ mayoral candidates

The amount of money being raised and spent so far in the Albuquerque mayor’s race is already an unprecedented $2,646,494. Of that, 68 percent comes from private contributors to candidates. An often heard saying about elections is that candidates spend their time asking anyone they can find for money to fund their campaigns. But a look at the campaigns of the three candidates raising the most in private dollars suggests one constituency is being asked a lot more than others. The real estate and land development sector has given roughly $1 of every $4 raised so far in the Albuquerque mayoral race once you subtract public financing dollars for one candidate and a half-a-million-dollar loan another candidate gave to himself, an NMID analysis shows.

Boyfriend’s betrayal: ABQ woman jailed after ATF informant lured her into drug deals

Jennifer Padilla’s boyfriend was pleading: Call people you used to run with, hook me up with some meth deals so I can pay off my Florida partners. 
He’d been robbed and needed cash, he kept saying. He’d be hurt if she didn’t. 
On parole after a year in prison for a string of Santa Fe burglaries and struggling to stay off drugs, Padilla was conflicted. Stepping back into the drug world unnerved her, but she refused to see the man she loved in danger. This story originally appeared in New Mexico In Depth, in partnership with the Santa Fe Reporter, and is reprinted with permission. Two calls to three old acquaintances led to a pair of methamphetamine deals last July.

Does poorly educating students violate the NM constitution? A judge will decide

How New Mexico educates its children will be in the hands of a state judge soon as a landmark trial against the state Public Education Department wraps up. Over eight weeks, the trial has featured dozens of witnesses and numerous citations to academic studies and policy reports. But in the end, the trial before First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton in Santa Fe boiled down to dueling worldviews. The plaintiffs — the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) — cited education outcomes for low-income, Native American and English language learners as evidence that New Mexico does not meet its constitutional obligation to provide a sufficient education for all children. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.