Friday, February 4, 2011

Broadcasters want to share legal ad revenue

Sen. David Ulibarri
Online technology is driving a proposal in this year's legislature which could authorize state broadcasters to publish legal ads and notices on their websites -- but not everyone is sure it’s a good idea.

State law currently only permits the legal material to be published in newspapers.

Sen. David Ulibarri, D-Grants, is carrying SB147 for the New Mexico Broadcasters Association’s new NM Legal Notices service.

NMBA President Paula Maes says her organization was asked by various municipalities to provide an alternative posting site for legal notices, because of declining newspaper circulations, and the fact that some rural newspapers only publish once a week.

The state’s open meeting act requires agendas be posted at least 24 hours before an official meeting, so supporter's of the measure suggest that government entities need an alternative posting site.

“With our site, people in towns like Taos, will be able to find their school board meeting agendas online,” Maes said.

“The Journal’s circulation is down 21 percent, and, people have to buy subscriptions to read the legal ads. This leaves many people in the dark,” Maes said. “Checking notices on a broadcaster’s site will be free.”

According to Maes, broadcasters in Illinois have already started publishing the legal ads on their website, and states like Rhode Island and Maine are watching what happens in Santa Fe this month before they roll out similar programs.

Maes said NM Legal Notices would charge about the same rate as newspapers and any money raised will be used to fund high school scholarships and intern programs.

While newspaper sales executives may be resisting the measure because it will dampen their ad revenues, a special interest group is opposing the alternative site claiming it will “keep the public in the dark.”

Conservation Voters of New Mexico insists legal ads and notices be published in community newspapers.

In a news release the group wrote:
This change would mean that New Mexicans would no longer be able to learn about government notices or issues that may affect their community by reading the local paper. Any notice of hearings for permitting dairy farms, power plants, regulatory hearings, or many other issues would no longer be published in the affected communities. Residents would need to seek out this information on the internet.
The NMBA counters that assertion and claims radio stations in small towns will be able to publish the ads more quickly on their website and residents won’t have to wait for a weekly or bi-weekly newspaper to be published.

Citadel New Mexico General Manager Milt McConnell says the majority of people in his audience get their information online. And, he wants public information to be publicly available on the internet.

“We believe it is past time to be able to have municipalities, school districts, county commissions etc to post their public notices on and have the electronic media be able to drive the message home,” McConnell, who oversees 770KKOB News Radio, said.

Both McConnell and Maes believe placing ads exclusively in print is not the answer going forward and say now is the time to insure an alternative delivery system.

For years broadcasters have aired free public service announcements, or PSA's, and worked closely with state and federal government agencies to disseminate valuable information to the public.

Opponents don't like the bill because they say 32 percent of residents have no access to the internet.

Members of the Senate Corporations Committee will consider the measure today at 2p in Santa Fe.

Disclosure: This reporter has worked for various broadcast outlets since 1980, including: Citadel Broadcasting, Hearst Television Inc, Hubbard Broadcasting and American General media.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Natural Gas outages reported across New Mexico

Updated 6:15p

Rolling pipeline outages in West Texas have impeded the delivery of natural gas coming into New Mexico, and thousands of homes and businesses are without the key fuel needed for their heaters and furnaces.

The New Mexico Natural Gas Company says its pipeline system is intact and their crews are working to minimize the impact of the outage.

The City of Albuquerque has activated its Emergency Operation Center, and some 20,000 people have reported their furnaces are out in the state's largest city.

Outages are being reported in smaller cities including Alamogordo, Ruidoso, Espanola, the entire town of Bernalillo, Taos, and most of Otero County.

Safety First

Residents are encouraged to remain in their homes if they can use safe alternative sources of heat to keep warm, such as electric heaters, wood or pellet stoves, and electric blankets.

Officials say DO NOT use unvented heaters, grills, propane or kerosene heaters or camp stoves inside their homes or enclosed spaces, as these can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.

Once gas pressure is restored, New Mexico Gas Company technicians will need to relight each home and business individually. A blue tag will be left to schedule a relight if you aren't home when our technicians visit.

Officials with the gas company are warning customers to think safety first and to seek shelter.
The safety of our customers is of top concern. New Mexico Gas Company has been working with National, County and State emergency services and officials, as well as local assistance agencies.

Seeking Shelter

Emergency shelters have been set up at these locations for residents unable to safely remain at home. These heated facilities will have coats, blankets, food and water, and other emergency relief in coordination with the Red Cross and/or National Guard.

* Alamogordo: Alamogordo Civic Center at 800 East First Street, at the corner of South Florida and First Street.
* Silver City: Grants County Conference Center at 3050 Hwy 180E (next to Ace Hardware); phone: 575-388-3180
* Questa: Alta Vista Elementary School gym at 2556 State Road 522
* Espanola: Beatrice Martinez Senior Center at 735 Vietnam Veterans Way

Officials urge neighbors to check on friends, especially the elderly, sick or homebound.

Emergency Numbers

For additional assistance or help getting to an emergency shelter:

In Alamogordo and Otero County:

* Alamogordo Department of Public Safety: 575-439-4300
* Otero County Sheriff: 575-437-2210
* Tularosa Police Dept.: 575-585-2704

In Silver City:

* Convention Center: 575-388-1198, Ext. 10 (no charge)
* Corre Caminos: 575-388-3180 ($2.50 and 50 cents each additional person at same address)

In Questa:

* Mayor's Office: 575-586-0694 or 586-1610

For regular updates check the New Mexico Natural Gas' emergency update webpage.

Update 11a: ABQ Officials Respond

At a mid-morning news conference, Mayor Richard Berry said the outages are "historic" and he and his staff are coordinating their response with Governor Susana Martinez. For now he said widespread outage have not hit the city. To avoid more serious problems, the mayor asked residents to lower their thermostats by at least 10 degrees and pull on a sweater.

Anyone seeking shelter in Albuquerque is asked to call the city's 311 service.

Update 615p - State of Emergency

KRQE TV reports:

Gov. Susana Martinez has declared a state of emergency as arctic temperatures and unprecedented demand for gas and electric heat left thousands of consumers without basic utilities.

Martinez signed two executive orders, one declaring the emergency and the second lifting limits on the number of hours propane-delivery drivers can work.

Martinez earlier had ordered thermostats lowered in all state buildings and sent non-critical state workers home to help conserve energy supplies. She also urged New Mexicans to lower their thermostats to reduce energy demand.

In an afternoon news conference in Albuquerque, a Gas Company of New Mexico official said the extreme weather conditions may affect gas deliver for another day or two. He also said the company expected demand to rise, but the below-zero temperatures and power brownouts in west Texas combined to reduce natural gas pressure in New Mexico.

When pressure drops below certain levels, gas in those areas must be shut off for the safety of the system, he said.

UNM Closed until Monday - Local Hotels offer discounted rooms

Officials at the University of New Mexico notified students at it's Albuquerque campus that it will remain closed through Sunday Feb. 6 to help N.M. get through energy crisis. Normal operations to resume Feb. 7.

Hotels in the Duke City have responded to Mayor Berry's call for help and are offering discounted room rates to people affected by power or gas outages.

These are just several around the City that have offered discounts:
  • Plaza Inn $39
  • Fairfield Inn $49
  • Hampton Inn $69
  • Marriott Pyramid $69
  • La Qunita Suites Midtown $69
  • Holiday Inn Express on 12th Street $69

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DPNM Chairman Gonzales seeks re-election

Gonzales roping
with his horse Bullet

Democrat Party Chairman Javier Gonzales has decided to seek re-election to the post.

He become chairman in 2009 after Brian Colón resigned to run for Lieutenant Governor.

Today, he say’s he ready to put his “blood, sweat, and tears” into the party again for the next two years.

Gonzales, a Santa Fe businessman and New Mexico State Regent, will face Albuquerque attorney Sam Bregman who announced last week. Several other names have surfaced as possible candidates for the post.

Political gossip columnist Joe Monahan blogged this morning about the candidate's party support.
Insiders say Gonzalez has solid support among the county chairs of northern New Mexico and can also count on support from a number of state legislators. The state's congressional delegation is also though be with him as is national Dem chair Tim Kaine.
Several names have also been floated on the Monahan's blog as contendors for the chairmanship, including Lawrence Rael and Joe Campos (both 2010 primary candidates for Lt. Gov), but it's unclear if they'll enter the field now that Gonzales is staying in the race.

Gonzales' news release includes a new seven point plan to help elect party candidates in 2012 and “build a better New Mexico.”

Barbara Wold at Democracy for New Mexico has posted the elements of Gonzales' plan.

Despite election losses in last fall’s general election Gonzales said he’s proud of the work he has done, including raising more than $2 million for the 2010 elections.

“ We stood together and overcame a historic electoral wave, remaining focused and united on what's important -- being a voice for all New Mexicans and assuring a fair and equitable chance at a better future.”

Members of the party's state central committee will cast their votes the last Saturday of April.

Note: We had offered to do a video interview with Gonzales -- similar to our Flipcam interview with Sam Bregman -- but his campaign never called to schedule one. The offer remains open.

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Senator proposes felony sanctions for copper thieves who damage utility plants

As the number of copper thefts increase -- often to fund drug addictions -- so could the penalties.

Sen. Steve Neville, R-Aztec, wants wants to send a message to thieves and vandals who steal copper from or damage energy production facilities.

He’s sponsoring a Senate Bill 240, which could make ripping off $50 worth of the metal a felony with a large fine or even imprisonment.

A vandal who rips off a $50 dollar piece of copper from a gas well to sell it as scrap metal, potentially causing an explosion and costing thousands of dollars in lost production time would only be slapped with a misdemeanor. But, Neville says the real cost of the crimes need to be taken into account before a suspect is charged.

“The law should take into consider the true costs of the crime to utility plants, not the value of a piece of metal.”

Last October Albuquerque police cracked down on copper thieves after they targeted recycling centers to find out who was committing the crimes. Police said then they recognized the steep increase in thefts.

The main purpose of APD's tactical plan was to educate recycling centers about a 2009 state law which mandates recyclers set aside items for five days and document who sold it to them. Many recyclers had not been reporting the names of people selling the metal.

Sen. Steven P. Neville
In this morning's news release Neville said the ramifications of power plant strikes are deep.

“Ripping off what is essentially to them scrap metal could cost thousands of dollars worth of damage and could even cause an explosion, shutting down production for days.” Neville said.

His bill would make it a felony crime to intentionally and without authorization vandalize, destroy or remove from an energy production facility any property of value, including tools, scrap metal, parts and petroleum products.

An energy production facility could be a power plant, storage or transmission facility or even oil rigs, regardless of whether such facility is still under construction or is otherwise not functioning."

If approved the bill would make it a fourth degree felony for property damage of $2,500 or less, a third degree felony if the value of property vandalized, destroyed or stolen over a six-month period has a value of over $2,500, but not more than $20,000, and a second degree felony if the value of property vandalized, destroyed or stolen over a six-month period has a value of over $20,000.

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