Saturday, December 19, 2009

Richardson opposes new charter school moratorium

Gov. Bill Richardson accepts the NEA's
Governor of the Year award in July, 2009

Governor Bill Richardson announced -- on Saturday --that he will oppose any efforts to slow down the growth of charter schools in New Mexico.

Additionally the governor is preparing a legislative proposal, for the 2010 Session, which convenes in January, aimed at strengthening the state’s charter schools.

“Improving education is the number one priority of my administration and that includes a strong commitment to allow parents choices about where they send their children to school,” Richardson said. “Charter schools are filling the needs of New Mexican families and are a great source of competition and innovation. I will not stand for any moratorium or other efforts to thwart this progress.”

In fact, Governor Richardson announced he will seek legislation to remove caps on the number of charter schools in New Mexico.

In a news release the Governor indicated he'll be proposing legislation that clarifies the process for both state and local charter schools to access both state and local capital outlay dollars to ensure equitable funding for charter school facilities. He announced he will not support any legislation that seeks to prohibit charter school employees from serving on elected school boards.

New Mexico is currently in the final stages of a preparing a grant for the federal Race to the Top grant. The strength of a state’s charter school program is an important component in the awarding of the grants. Any backtracking in the state’s commitment to charter schools, such as a moratorium, could hurt New Mexico’s chances for Race to the Top and the $75 million dollars of funding that would come with it.

New Mexico has a strong authorizing process for charter schools. Last year half of the charters that applied were approved. Currently, 73 charter schools are in operation or are in the planning phase around the state and the number is like to rise to 81 charter schools for the 2010-2011 school year. Forty-eight will be authorized by local school districts and 33 will be PEC/state authorized.

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Obama talks health care in weekly address

The President used his weekly address to talk about the consumer protections that will be passed as part of health insurance reform, and calls on the Senate to allow an up-or-down vote.

Now we're learning a deal has been struck with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson and that it appears the Senate will adopt a health care reform bill soon.

The Albuquerque Journal's Michael Coleman has details on the Friday night handshake deal that will likely lead to a vote before Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Arnold-Jones criticizes governor's timing

Photo: MG Bralley
Republican candidate for Governor, State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones said today that Governor Bill Richardson’s calls for ethics reform are too little too late.

“I find it interesting that Governor Richardson has chosen this legislative session to finally make the claim that he wants ethics reform within our government,” Arnold-Jones said. “Given the fact that in this legislative session we, as legislators, are tasked with plugging the budget holes that were created in large part because of what appears to be an ethically challenged administration, this announcement appears to be designed to deflect attention from an estimated budget shortfall of $650 million.”

“I’ve served in the legislature every day of Richardson’s tenure. Ethics reform was far from the top of his administration’s list,” Arnold-Jones added.

'Ethical behavior is a mindset '

"Principled leadership is imperative and trumps any commission” Arnold-Jones stated. “ Crime, corruption and ethical lapses can only be overcome by learning the proper values, morals and ethical behaviors. As Governor, I will bring a model for governance with clear expectations that will transform government into a public trust from the top down. I will begin that process the day after my election!”

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Albuquerque Mayor: State of the city's budget

Sunrise in downtown Albuquerque on the last Friday of Fall.

On the job for 18 days, Albuquerque's new mayor is taking a hard look at the city's $475 million annual budget.

Today, Mayor Richard Berry is planning to discuss the state of the city's budget with reporter's at a mid-morning news conference -- and 770KKOB will be there to cover it.

Revenue from gross receipts are expected to be off 9% (from the same time last year), and that could lead to budget cuts, adjustments, and even worker furloughs.

It appears Berry's new administration is starting out with a $24 million to $40 million deficit.

Albuquerque is not the only city struggling in the metro area. Rio Rancho city officials are also facing a $3 million deficit -- they'll decide if employee furloughs are needed sometime next month.

Morning news brief from 770KKOB

Obama addresses COP15 conference
President Barack Obama says the world's will to address climate change ``hangs in the balance.'' Speaking at the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen this morning, Obama said it's time to take a "substantial step forward'' and the U.S. is setting an example of bold action that other nations must follow. But delegates to the conference have blamed the U.S. and China for the lack of an agreement.

Drone strike
Intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone missile strike has killed three militants in Pakistan's lawless tribal area near the Afghan border. It was the third such attack in the past 24 hours in an area of North Waziristan controlled by a militant commander.

Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen says he's very concerned about cybersecurity. But he says the recent computer hacking of information from U.S. drones has caused no significant military damage. Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have intercepted live video feeds from Predator drones. The Pentagon says the vulnerability has been fixed.

Making a plea to Iran
The mother of one of three American hikers detained in Iran has recorded a video message to Iran's supreme leader appealing for their release. The three hikers have been held for nearly five months and are facing trial. Tehran says they were captured after crossing the country's border and has accused them of spying.

Still perfect
The Indianapolis Colts have joined the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots as the only NFL teams to start a season 14-and-0 following their 35-31 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last night. Peyton Manning threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Morning news brief from 770KKOB

Climate aid pledge
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is pledging that the U.S. will join other rich countries in raising $100 billion in yearly climate financing for poor countries by 2020. At the U.N. talks in Copenhagen, Clinton says the financing is contingent on world leaders reaching a climate deal. Talks have been deadlocked over disputes between rich and poor countries over emissions cuts and financing.

Suspending foreclosures
Citigroup says it's suspending foreclosures and evictions for 30 days. The holiday reprieve should help some 2,000 homeowners with scheduled foreclosure sales and another 2,000 due to receive foreclosure notices.

Yemen vs. al-Qaida
Authorities in Yemen are claiming a pair of victories against al-Qaida operatives. A security official says airstrikes followed by a ground operation targeting a training camp killed 30 suspected militants. Separately, the Interior Ministry says four would-be suicide bombers were killed in an operation northeast of the capital and 17 suspected militants were arrested.

Suicide attack in Russia
A suicide attacker has struck in Russia's North Caucasus. An Interior Ministry official says the attacker drove a car into a group of police officers at a busy intersection and detonated his explosives. At least 11 officers were injured and some are reported in grave condition. Some civilians were also hurt.

Going home
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has finally left the hospital in Milan. He's been there since being attacked by a mentally ill man at a political rally four days ago. Berlusconi left with his face bandaged. His nose and two teeth were broken and his face and lips cut in the attack.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Former state treasurer once again a free man

Released from federal custody last Friday, Robert Vigil still faces three years of probation and has to finish paying off $97,000 in fines.

The former state treasurer was convicted on one count of attempted extortion in 2006. The 56-year old Vigil served just over two years in prison -- first in Texas and later in Colorado -- before being moved to a halfway house in Albuquerque this past June.

In this morning's Albuquerque Journal Thomas Cole reports -- in his Up Front -- column today that Vigil has been confined to his home for the last three months.

Vigil, who also served two terms as state auditor, originally faced 28 counts stemming from a kickback scheme at the state treasurers office. Four counts were dropped before his first trial. It ended in a hung jury.

Last April, we were the first to report that Vigil's appeal in the 10th Circuit Court was denied. Later the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Under terms of his probation, Vigil must remain employed or attend school fulltime. He also must meet with his probation officer once a month, can not possess a firearm, and ask for persmission to travel out of the state.

He's also not allowed to associate with other known felons -- including his own sister-in-law, Roberta Vigil, who was convicted in May of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, after she diverted taxpayer money from the West Las Vegas School District.

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Morning news brief from 770KKOB

It's TIME for Bernanke
Time magazine has announced its ``Person of the Year'' for 2009. It's Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Last year's winner was then-President-elect Barack Obama. Previous winners include George W. Bush and Bono.

Health bill compromises
The public insurance option that most senate Democrats wanted to include in health care reform legislation appears dead, as does a Medicare buy-in plan. But Democrats are nearing a compromise on the bill as they come to terms with the idea that they're not going to get everything they want in the nearly $1 trillion bill.

Raising the federal debt ceiling
The House plans to vote today on a $200 billion increase in the federal debt ceiling, extending the limit for two months. President Barack Obama says deficit spending is still needed to create jobs and stimulate the economy. But most Republicans and some moderate Democrats say the deficit is growing too large.

Trouble in Copenhagen
Police are using tear gas and batons to disperse crowds of protesters trying to disrupt the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen. A police spokesman says 230 protesters have been detained. The demonstrators say they want to take over the global conference and turn it into a ``people's assembly.''

Teens need health screenings after sex
A new study suggests that half of all urban teenage girls may get one or more sexually transmitted infections within two years of becoming sexually active. Researchers at Indiana University say their findings point to the need to screen sexually active teenage girls sooner for infections.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Denish releases new campaign video

"Our New Mexico," Diane Denish's latest 2010 gubernatorial campaign video was released on Sunday night -- after being previewed at an Albuquerque North Valley ward meeting on Saturday afternoon.

In the 3.5 minute video, she talks about her rural roots, the state's cultural diversity and natural resources, the need to "get out of Santa Fe" and be more accessible to all New Mexicans, and her record generating small business loans for over 1600 local companies.

Denish pledges, "to be bold in our thinking, wise in our spending, courageous in our action -- that's how we'll build our economy, grow new businesses, create jobs, and deliver the better schools and safer communities our kids and families deserve."

She also talks about her record of releasing campaign finance reports, which include list of political contributors, more often than state law requires and her plan to give taxpayers the opportunity to review state contracts online.

Denish hopes to win next year so she can preside over the state's 100th anniversary of statehood and in the video she says she hopes, "our second century can be as great as our first."

Denish, who does not have a Democrat primary challenger, does have $2 million dollars in her campaign treasury, which makes it a whole lot easier to generate high quality and well produced videos to brand Denish's campaign and establish themed messages early in the election season.

Four Republicans, businessmen Allen Weh and Doug Turner, Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, and State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones, are campaigning for the GOP nomination.

Obama and the banks

A top adviser to President Barack Obama says the White House is telling the banking industry it helped create last year's near economic meltdown and it has to be ``part of the solution.''

Small business and mortgage lending, financial reform and the economic recovery are all on the agenda for President Barak Obama's meeting with bank executives this morning.

Previewing a meeting Obama will have later Monday with industry leaders, David Axelrod said there simply has to be easier credit for businesses to reinvest and do the hiring needed to bring down double-digit unemployment.

Interviewed on ABC's ``Good Morning America,'' Axelrod said the message to bankers is, ``You have to accelerate lending to credible small businesses.''

Meeting could be tense

In a ``60 Minutes'' interview aired last night, Obama said Wall Street's huge bonuses anger people and he didn't run for president to help ``fat cat bankers.''

Meanwhile, Citigroup is the latest big bank to announce it's paying back bailout money. It will return $20 billion to the Treasury.

One of the hardest hit by the credit crisis and loan defaults, Citigroup received $45 in government support.

Many banks have moved quickly to repay the bailout money because it came with restrictions like caps on executive pay and dividends.

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COP15 in dissarray

U.N. climate talks have been thrown into disarray as developing countries blocked negotiations, demanding that rich countries raise their pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives from developing countries said they refused to participate in any working groups Monday at the 192-nation summit until the issue was resolved.

The move was a setback for the Copenhagen talks, which were already faltering over long-running disputes between rich and poor nations over emissions cuts and financing for developing countries to deal with climate change.

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