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Thumbs Our high country lowdown on the news - Oct. 30, 2015

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A HORRIFIC TRAGEDY
Violence erupted in Mora County last Friday, and now two people are dead and a third person is recovering from a gunshot wound. State police arrested 45-year-old Donald Valdez at a church shortly after the shooting. He is facing two counts of second-degree murder and other charges and is being held at the San Miguel County Detention Center in lieu of a $600,000 cash-only bond. The people killed have been identified as Fred Montoya and Bernadine Garcia. The woman who was wounded was identified as Amanda Miera. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

A MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT
The federal government has awarded more than $15 million for essential upgrades for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line in New Mexico and Southeast Colorado. We’re hopeful that the funding will put an end to Amtrak’s threat to reroute the Southwest chief, a move that would eliminate service to Raton, Las Vegas and other communities. We applaud Mayor Alfonso Ortiz, Gov. Susana Martinez, U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce for their efforts to secure the grant. The Southwest Chief is important to the economies of Las Vegas and northern New Mexico, and we need to do everything we can to keep it here.

STEPPING IN
We commend New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera for stepping in and ordering the Mora Independent School District to stop paying Superintendent Charles Trujillo, who surrendered his education licenses after the Optic broke the story that he has falsified his credentials. Skandera informed the district in a letter that its actions were illegal, and that any money paid to Trujillo after he surrendered his licenses would have to be recouped. The Mora school board’s decision to place Trujillo on paid administrative leave after he surrendered his licenses was outrageous and nonsensical. It’s about time that someone held that board accountable.

BUT . . .
The state Public Education Departments decision to bring in an “independent party” to investigate the Charles Trujillo matter is problematic. We would argue that any individual or entity hired and paid by PED is not “independent.” We renew our calls for the state attorney general and legislative oversight bodies to step in and conduct a truly independent investigation into the PED’s licensure practices that allowed Trujillo to walk away with four Level 3 licenses using a fraudulent college transcript and embellished work experience.