Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have a wonderful Christmas time

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Udall says works still need to be done...bill not 'perfect'

U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-NM, today voted in favor of historic health care reform legislation despite the fact he says this "bill is not perfect."

Udalls says the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will expand health care coverage to 31 million Americans, including an additional 305,000 New Mexicans.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Udall proposes national ignition interlock requirements for drunk drivers

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall wants the rest of the nation to follow New Mexico's lead when it comes to ignition interlocks.

"New Mexico was the first state to attack the epidemic of drunk driving by implementing an aggressive ignition interlock penalty program for all offenders," Udall said. "The strategy has helped take drunk drivers off the roads and save lives. I believe enacting it nationwide would have the same positive and resounding effect."

The New Mexico Democrat has introduced a bill requiring that all 50 states implement a program mandating that first-time convicted drunk drivers have an ignition interlock on their car.

New Mexico was the first state to have such a requirement.

Under Udall's bill, state that don't comply could lose Federal Transportation funding.

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Gary Johnson traveling to New Hampshire.

Former N.M. Gov. Gary Johnson is heading to New Hampshire — the nation’s first presidential primary state — next month.

Johnson, the honorary chairman of his political action committee Our America Initiative, will be the keynote speaker at the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire On Jan. 23 at the Grappone Center in Concord, N.H.

While Johnson, a libertarian-leaning Republican, has not declared his candidacy for president — or really even said he’s seriously considering running — he has been mentioned as a possible candidate in 2012 and has been a favorite of many of the same people who supported Ron Paul in 2008.

Last week, Politico reported that Johnson is “doing little to knock down the idea that he may be looking toward a 2012 presidential run.” Heading to New Hampshire two years before the nation’s first primary could add fuel to speculation that he’s preparing a national campaign.

Johnson, a two-term governor who preceded Gov. Bill Richardson, endorsed Ron Paul for president last year and spoke at Paul’s Rally for the Republic in Minnesota in 2008.

A grassroots group has been running and another group has set up a Gary Johnson For President in 2012 group on Facebook. Earlier this year, the American Conservative reported that Johnson said he was keeping his options open in regards to a 2012 presidential run.

Johnson has been quite active lately. He recently talked with’s about the budget crisis in Santa Fe, and in this audio and video Johnson speaks about his continued push for decriminalizing and legalizing drugs in the United States.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

NM Veterans' Integration Center will expand

From a news release

The New Mexico Veterans’ Integration Center (VIC) has received the first annual installment of a three -year, $1.6 million per-diem grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA).

The money will allow the center to expand to its planned 50-room capacity leased through an agreement with the Value Place Hotel on Central Avenue in Albuquerque. There are currently 31 rooms being leased.

“This grant is a tremendous Christmas gift for veterans in need,” New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services Cabinet Secretary John M. Garcia said.

Garcia's department provides funding for the center and also helped apply for the grant.

“With the move to the new hotel, we are now taking the level of care for these veterans to another level,” Garcia said.

The NMDVS along with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions assist with operating the VIC and to help the estimated 7,000 homeless veterans in New Mexico.

In addition to providing shelter, the VIC also provides counseling, employment assistance, and “life-skills” assistance to help residents re-integrate into society. Residents must sign up for a two-year residency and must adhere to a strict “zero-tolerance” policy concerning the use of drugs & alcohol.

'The Check's already in the bank'

The grant had been approved in August of 2008, but was withheld by the VA after an inspection of the original center by VA officials turned up numerous safety and health hazards. Improvements to fix these violations would have cost at least $500,000—money that the center or the state simply didn’t have, said VIC Board President Larry Campos of the NM Department of Workforce Solutions’ Veterans’ Employment and Training Center.

“We had raised these concerns before with our landlord--but he never acted on them,” Campos said. “So when we were successful in getting that grant, we had no choice but to move—which unfortunately meant a delay in receiving that Grant money.”

The VIC moved to the new location in August after its lease expired at the original location—the former Sundowner Lounge and Economy Motel five miles west of the new location on Central Avenue. And while the new modern location easily met all safety requirements according to the City code, it still needed a few adjustments to satisfy the strict VA requirements. Work on these minor additions is currently underway, which was enough to allow the release of the first installments of the grant. (amount of payments will be gradually released by VA).

“The check’s already in the bank,” Campos said. “We are going to do some great things here at the new VIC.”

The NMDVS also provides funding to assist homeless veterans in southern New Mexico, through the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope in Las Cruces.

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City may defer building swap with Eclipse Aerospace

In September 2008, weeds and an empty parking eclipsed the former
pilot training center adjacent to Double Eagle Airport.

The City of Albuquerque and Eclipse Aerospace still haven't worked out a deal on a proposed barter agreement to keep the company operating.

That deal involves swapping an empty pilot-training building the company owns on the west side, in exchange for two rent-free hangar buildings at the Sunport.

While that swap is on tonight's City Council agenda, it is now expected to be deferred.

And, that's partially because Council President Ken Sanchez says it may be a while before Eclipse Aerospace starts making jets again.

"They say they're willing to start right now," Sanchez said, "but looking at the economic climate across America, I just don't foresee that happening. I think that we're still going through tough and difficult times."

Eclipse Aerospace reopened September 4 -- after a Federal Bankruptcy judge accepted their bid to buy the original company's assets.

Sanchez says he still questions the worth of the west side training facility.

The land it sits on what was part of a three-way land exchange between with the New Mexico State Land Office, city and a private rancher -- who has the right to have the land returned to him if manufacturing fails to start on the land, which sits adjacent to Double Eagle Airport II.

Sanchez says he believes Eclipse Aerospace's goal of bringing 435 jobs to the area is a "little optimistic."

"We, now with our own budget crisis, don't have the money to cover those folks even though there's a very handsome three to one federal match we just don't have the $85 million dollars that we would need to continue that program," Sanchez said.

Currently, the group has 60 employees, and group President Mason Holland is telling customers, "We continue to add engineering and mechanic talent needed to support the fleet. Mechanics are being hired to ramp upgrade completions as quickly as possible. Engineering talent is being added to support the upgrades, complete the final design changes, and for continued aircraft improvements."

In a customer communique -- posted on the company's website today -- Holland wrote, "Our ABQ Service Center is now operational and 8 planes are undergoing upgrades including our first to incorporate the EASA configuration changes."

Holland also stated the group's Chicago Service Center "is now delivering the first group of upgraded aircraft."

Updated 8pm

As expected, on an unanimous vote, the city council deferred discussion on a city rental deal to a meeting in January.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lujan-Grisham plans new campaign

On Monday, former New Mexico Secretary of Health Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to formally announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Bernalillo County Commissioner-District 1, a seat currently held by Alan Armijo.

Lujan Grisham — a 12th generation New Mexican — campaigned in 2008 for congress, but lost in the Democratic primary to Martin Heinrich.

She has served in the administrations of three governors after being first appointed Director of the state’s Agency on Aging by former Governor Bruce King 1991. Governor Gary Johnson retained her in that position, before Richardson elevated her her to Secretary of the Department of Health.

Lujan Grisham, a nationally recognized authority on aging and health care issues, has continued to work on access to health care and social services in New Mexico.

Originally from Los Alamos and Santa Fe, she is the widow of the late Greg Grisham and the granddaughter of former New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Eugene Lujan, and received both her Bachelors and law degree from UNM.

Lujan plans to make her announcement at at the Rio Grande Nature Center in Albuquerque at 3:30pm.

Armijo is term-limited, and lost his own bid to return to the Albuquerque City council in October.

Our friends at Democracy for New Mexico report Loretta Naranjo-Lopez is also running in the Democratic primary for District 1 County Comissioner. She retired from her post as city planner at the City of Albuquerque in 2003 after 25 years of service. She ran also ran for County Commission in District 1 in 2006, and served as President of AFSCME, Local 3022, in 2001.

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