Court rules against N.M. governor
New Mexico’s new Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has stumbled on one of her early steps. The Las Cruces woman came out swinging against the state’s new greenhouse gas regulations, but the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled her nullification of the cap to be illegal.
Late last year, Gov. Richardson took the State of New Mexico on a pioneering step and adopted the most comprehensive greenhouse gas regulations in the nation. The new rules were set to take effect in 2012 and would have forced power plants and the oil and gas sector to radically curb their emissions.
However, voters elected Martinez, a staunchly pro-business Republican and climate change skeptic, last November. On Jan. 5, just days after entering office, she blocked the publication of the greenhouse gas rules in the New Mexico Register. Martinez then dismissed all of the members of New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board, the body that adopted the new rules.
However, last week the New Mexico Supreme Court sent the regulations back to “go” and compelled Martinez to publish the rules in the New Mexico Record and make them official.
In the decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels wrote that Martinez is not above the law and must follow due process. “The issue is whether the suspension of the printing of the rules was proper … She has a nondiscretionary administrative duty to follow the law.”
The nonprofit New Mexico Environmental Law Center argued the suit. “This is a tremendous and deserved victory for the administration of justice in New Mexico,” said Bruce Frederick, staff attorney with the group. “The ruling ensures that our regulations will continue to be developed in a public and open process, and be protected from revision through secret, backroom deals.”
The case may have been a victory for due process but Richardson’s greenhouse gas regulations are still hanging in the balance. Legislation has been introduced in New Mexico to repeal the rules, and utilities and industry groups have vowed to fight the caps in appeals court if they are not eliminated.
Civil rights leader to visit Fort Lewis
Fort Lewis College is bringing a prominent Native American to Durango next week. Grace Settler, educator and civil rights advocate, will serve as the college’s Elder-in-Residence and interact with students, faculty, staff and community members from Feb. 7 -10.
Each year the FLC Native American Center Elder-in-Residence program brings prominent figures from the Native American community to campus to meet with the College community and increase local knowledge and understanding. Settler, an elder with Washington State’s Yakima Tribe, has devoted her life to balancing the scales of education. In 1959, despite earning the grades to be valedictorian, she was denied the honor because of the color of her skin. She eventually worked her way to Washington, D.C., and became an advocate for education and civil rights. Today she works as a foster grandmother at the Tribal Head Start and with College Horizons and Graduate Horizons.
Next Wed., Feb. 9, Settler will give a public presentation, “Time of Turmoil, Time of Hope” at the Center of Southwest Studies Lyceum. The event is free and open to the public and begins with a reception at 4:45 p.m.
Housing alliance on the hunt for land
The Regional Housing Alliance of La Plata County is on the hunt for the perfect parcel. The alliance is reaching out to landowners in its search for a 2- to 5-acre site suitable for construction of affordable rental apartments.
“We are asking land owners to get in touch with us if they have parcels in Durango or nearby with access to water and sewer lines that can hold a minimum of 50 rental apartments,” said RHA director Jenn Lopez.
The new “Developer Support Program” hopes to increase the supply of affordable housing by forging partnerships with developers. The RHA pledges to offer financing assistance and access to grantand tax incentive programs to qualified projects, according to Lopez.
She added that the alliance is interested in obtaining options or purchase agreements on suitable parcels and then will work with the landowner to find a developer to complete the purchase and build the apartments. The aim is to offer affordable housing for working Durangoans with rents ranging from $500 - $700/month.
Durango Mayor Michael Rendon is applauding the innovative program. “Building more affordable rental apartments is a critical need for our community,” he said. “Currently there are three-year waitlists for affordable rentals at many sites, and we expect that the shortage will worsen over the next few years.”
La Plata County Commissioner Kellie Hotter has also thrown her support behind the new program. “It’s not just about providing housing for our workforce,” she said. “The development process, in partnership with private sector partners, creates much-needed economic activity for the community.”
Interested landowners should visit www.rhaplc.org/RHA. The RHA will consider applications submitted prior to Feb. 22.
Downtown bank changing hands
One of Durango’s vaults is changing hands. Four Corners Community Bank, with branches in Farmington, Aztec and Cortez, is entering the Durango market with plans to acquire Pine River Valley Bank’s Durango branch, at 1701 Main Ave. The banks plan to close the deal in coming months.
“We are looking forward to being a part of the Durango community,” said Sheila Mathews, President & CEO of Four Corners Community Bank. “As a local community bank, we are strongly committed to the Four Corners region, and our focus lies in helping our united communities to grow and prosper.”
Four Corners Community Bank Founder and Vice President Greg Anesi is a Durango native and has numerous business interests in La Plata County.“Expanding into the Durango market is advantageous,” he said. “Offering both a strong local source for loans along with the resources of a well-capitalized banking operation defines the best that a community bank can offer.”
The boards of the two banks have approved the transaction. It is now subject to regulatory approval and closing conditions.
– Will Sands