New Mexico

MLG admin. staffer who worked on ex-porn actor’s campaign given massive $32k raise

New Mexicans are still suffering due to embattled Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s strict lockdown orders, which she changes every once in a while on her COVID rainbow, also known as her “red to green” framework for reopening. While New Mexicans are uncertain if their businesses will be forced to cut staff or change inventory levels due to the ever-changing color trajectory, Gov. Lujan Grisham is delving out massive raises to partisan staffers in her administration.

According to one report, Justin Garoutte, a special assistant to New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney, was given a gargantuan $32,000 raise, boosting this individual’s salary to $87,000 on a 40-hour-a-week schedule. That’s a 58% increase.

Garoutte has described himself as a “genderqueer gay” person. He previously worked on porn actor-turned New Mexico state representative Roger Montoya’s campaign as a “field director” and Montoya’s nonprofit group “Moving Arts Española” as a “development assistant” from March 2020 to July 2020.

During Montoya’s campaign, he used a charity donor list from Moving Arts Española to solicit campaign donations for his run. 

According to his LinkedIn page, “Justin (pronouns: they/he) is from Antonito, a small town in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley,” the LinkedIn page states. “Their areas of interest are environmental health, health equity, Latina/o/x health, LGBTQIA+ health, community building, social determinants of health, and community-based participatory research.”

Garoutte will now be director of strategic initiatives, leading “our science, innovation, collaboration and compliance cross-cutting portfolios,” said Kenney.

This gender-confused individual is not the only person in the Lujan Grisham administration to get a hefty raise in recent months. Garoutte’s massive pay increase comes just 3 months after it was discovered the Governor’s office handed eight of her own staff members raises totaling $92,000 over the past year, a 10% bump on average, far outpacing the raises more broadly granted state employees.

The raises were as follows:

Comm. Director Tripp Stelnicki ($18,600), Director of Boards and Commissions Melissa Salazar ($12,000), Chief of Staff Teresa Casados ($10,800), Chief of Staff Matt Garcia ($10,600), Cabinet Director Dominic Gabello ($10,600), Policy Advisor Diego Arencon ($10,000), Director of Cabinet Affairs Caroline Buerkle ($10,000) and Director of Legislative Affairs Victor Reyes ($7,500).

But the raises didn’t come without a thick layer of condescension from the ivory towers of the Governor’s Office. Press secretary Nora Sackett said, “Governor’s office staff play a critical role in the operation of the state’s executive branch and the governance of the state – all of which is amplified during a yearlong crisis.” This appears to be another “let them eat cake” sentiment to once again kick New Mexicans while they’re down.

New Mexico’s unemployment rate is 8.3% and is the third-worst in the nation. It is also at its worst point in 30 years, outpacing even the Great Recession following the housing bubble crash of 2008. 

Larry Behrens of the pro-energy group Power The Future said, “I can’t think of anything more pathetic than radical environmentalists handing themselves massive raises while New Mexico’s families suffer under the worst unemployment rate in 30 years. I guess leaders in this administration feel if you’re going to continue to attack New Mexico’s energy workers it helps to have a 5-person media relations office. The message is clear: if you’re part of the eco-left inner circle, there’s plenty of green for you because the taxpayers are footing the bill.”

Gov. MLG tries to squash nonprofit groups’ lawsuit over her lockdown orders

On Tuesday, embattled Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was accused and later settled with $62,500 in campaign funds for sexual assault, was reported to be trying to have the court throw out a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit fraternal organizations the New Mexico Elks Association, the New Mexico Aerie of the Brotherhood of Eagles, and the New Mexico Loyal Order of the Moose over lockdown orders that have shuttered the organizations’ operations.

The organizations run multiple clubs and bars across the state and they are directly impacted by the Governor’s strict lockdown policies which have shuttered them for months.

The groups argued in their lawsuit that “the state has acted arbitrarily and capriciously by requiring their lodges to remain closed while establishments offering similar services — such golf courses and country clubs, gyms and restaurants — have been allowed to reopen under capacity limits and guidance for public health.” 

In the complaint, they write that they “can implement the same safety precautions, policies and procedures that similar organizations were able to implement in order to resume organizational operations.”

However, Lujan Grisham’s attorneys had a different way of spinning the story, writing, “Plaintiffs’ members are allowed to assemble and fundraise at various capacities depending on the county’s status,” The attorneys added, “They are only prohibited from offering alcohol service in Yellow and Red counties.”

“Plaintiffs’ members are allowed to assemble and fundraise at various capacities depending on the county’s status,” the state’s filing argues. “They are only prohibited from offering alcohol service in Yellow and Red counties.”

“The governor argued that the state’s public health orders, which have been upheld in unrelated cases, do not discriminate against fraternal organizations versus other businesses, eliminating their equal protection claim,” according to the Las Cruces Sun-News

“Regarding why bars are treated differently than where other alcohol is served, the Governor’s attorneys wrote, “…people cannot simultaneously drink and wear a mask. Further, a bar presents a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission than other businesses like restaurants because it is an enclosed space where people socialize without masks due to consuming alcohol for an extended period of time, whereas restaurant patrons typically conduct the limited activity of eating a meal.”

“Further, they stressed that the public health orders do not infringe upon any fundamental rights, due process rights or freedom of association; that the governor and state Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins are both named as defendants in their individual but not their official capacities; and that even if there were a valid claim, Collins and Lujan Grisham would be protected from liability by qualified immunity, a legal doctrine shielding government officials unless their conduct violates ‘clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known,’” the report reads.

UNM drafts mandatory COVID vaccine requirement policy

The University of New Mexico, the state’s flagship university in Albuquerque, has drafted a new COVID-19 vaccine requirement policy for all students and employees before returning to campus this Fall. 

If the policy is enacted, it is likely to create legal challenges for the school due to mandatory vaccines at a public, taxpayer-funded university being against constitutional rights. The university has yet to make a final decision.

“While the University has not made a final decision, we have drafted a vaccine requirement policy for our community’s consideration,” UNM President Garnett Stokes said in a written message Monday. “Your review and feedback are encouraged.”

“Our top priority continues to be safeguarding the health and well-being of our community, while … provid(ing) a world-class educational experience and advancing our public research mission,” Stokes added.

UNM’s policy reads, “In order to protect and preserve the health, safety and welfare of the UNM community, the University will require that all personnel accessing University Facilities and Programs in person be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as soonas possible, but no later than August 2, 2021 for staff returning to work on campus in any capacity, or by the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year for faculty and students not currently working, living or learning on campus. This policy requires all UNM staff, faculty and students who access campus facilities, housing, programs, services and activities in person to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to limited exceptions and exemptions.”

The far-left University of California and California State University systems have said they will require the vaccine. The University of Colorado at Boulder will also require it for faculty, staff and students. Colorado State University also plans to require the vaccine at its Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses. Rutgers University in New Jersey among other schools has adopted the COVID-19 inoculation mandate.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, “UNM said on its website that university employees and students should make all efforts to comply with the policy by Aug. 2, or the start of the fall semester.” 

The mandatory vaccine requirement would be across the board for all of UNM’s facilities, however, a few religious and medical exceptions will be allowed, provided the individuals with such exceptions jump through extra hurdles, including other “safety measures” and frequent testing.

New Mexico State University spokesman Justin Bannister said the university “is closely watching the discussion …, but has not yet made a decision to require NMSU students and employees to be vaccinated.” 

Feedback on UNM’s policy can be submitted here.

Dems eating their own: Legislator taking Gov. MLG, Health Sec. Collins to court over ‘retaliation’

On Tuesday, it was reported that state Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-Bernalillo), who has alienated both Democrats and Republicans, is now planning to sue Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Health secretary, Dr. Tracie Collins, over what he describes as “retaliation” for his Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests.

Collins filed an ethics complaint in March against Candelaria for alleged violation of the state’s Governmental Conduct Act by voting on a bill during this year’s 60-day legislative session while representing legal clients who “would be substantially affected by the outcome.”

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Collins “noted a lawsuit he had filed on behalf of the client, New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health, over reciprocity in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, in which people from out of state who are authorized patients of other cannabis programs can enroll in New Mexico’s program. The legislation in question, Senate Bill 340, would have amended the state’s medical cannabis law to define a ‘reciprocal patient.’” 

Ironically, other similar ethics complaints have been filed against individuals such as Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), who was accused of benefitting off of the passage of H.B. 4, dubbed the “Civil Rights Act,” which would bankrupt local communities with frivolous “civil rights” litigation claims. Egolf’s firm is now directly benefitting from the new law, signed by Gov. Lujan Grisham, as 60% of its business comes from civil litigation. 

In Candelaria’s complaint, he says Collins’ claims are “without merit, defamatory in nature, and swiftly dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by the [New Mexico] Ethics Commission six days later.”

Nora Sackett, Gov, Lujan Grisham’s press secretary, insisted that “No such ‘retaliation’ ever occurred, and it’s troubling that this legislator continues to be seemingly motivated solely by his own personal animus.”

“I will also be filing an ethics complaint against the governor for the same behavior,” said Candelaria.

Candelaria previously requested “a large trove of emails pertaining to how the governor and her senior staff have handled various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and also with respect to how federal funds are being spent or appropriated or moved between agencies,” according to the New Mexican.

After the mammoth request, which he was told would be delayed due to the large volume of emails he asked for, he claims Majority Leader Peter Wirth and then-Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen requested a meeting with him at his Albuqerque office. 

The New Mexican writes:

According to Candelaria, Wirth started the meeting by saying they were there because the governor and the Governor’s Office were “furious” that he had submitted the public records requests.

“Peter stated to me that the message he was there to deliver from the executive was that unless these [public records requests] went away, there would be quote-unquote escalating consequences for me,” he said.

In an email, a spokesman for Senate Democrats said Wirth confirmed he and Papen met with Candelaria last fall at his law office in Albuquerque “to discuss internal caucus matters.” Neither Wirth nor the spokesman responded to Candelaria’s allegation that he was warned of “escalating consequences.”

Candelaria said he was “terrified” and decided to withdraw his requests after his meeting with Wirth and Papen.

But he said there was still fallout, including being told that his requests for records were a “determining factor” in him not being appointed to certain legislative committees.

The report says Candelaria has no plans to settle with Collins out of court or to settle the suit he plans to bring against the governor. “I fully intend to take both of these cases to a judge or jury,” he said. 

Previously, Candelaria and Wirth got into a shouting match on the Senate floor, where Wirth told the Albuquerque-area senator to “f**k off.” Last year, Candelaria disrespected police officers after making a big deal over a few phone calls he received from a constituent, which he claimed threatened his life. Once officers got to his house and told him there was not much they could do, he kicked them out and threatened to call the Governor on them. Now, it appears, Lujan Grisham is no ally of Candelaria. 

Albuquerque legend and three-time Indy 500 champ Bobby Unser dies at 87

On Sunday, three-time Indy 500 champion and NASCAR racing legend Bobby Unser passed away at 87. Unser, who moved with his family to Albuquerque from Colorado Springs at the age of one, is one of only ten drivers in the world to win the Indianapolis 500 three times or more. 

Unser had an uphill battle in his racing career, debuting at the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb in 1955 but finishing fifth that year. However, one year later, Unser won his first of a record 13 championships at Pike’s Peak. In 1963, Unser raced his first Indy 500, but he crashed early and placed at number 33. His first Indy-car win was in 1967 at Mosport in Ontario, and one year later, he won his first Indianapolis 500.

The Unser family is a racing dynasty. His brother, Jerry Unser, died in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His younger brother, Al Unser, is a four-time Indy 500 winner, and his nephew, Al Unser, Jr., won the race twice. In total, six members of the family have raced at the Indianapolis 500.

After his retirement from racing, Unser became a television commentator for Indy car races, working for NBC, ABC, and ESPN for twenty years. 

Following his retirement, he was asked what he attributed to his success in different cars, venues, and different eras during his career. He replied, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”

Unser was inducted into many motorsports Halls of Fame, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Bobby Unser is survived by his wife Lisa, sons Bobby Jr. and Robby, and daughters Cindy and Jeri.

Bobby Unser’s lifetime of achievements can be remembered by visiting the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque, which is currently shuttered by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s COVID-19 lockdown. The museum is set to reopen sometime in the Fall of 2021.

Three Rivers Fire is now at 7,119 acres, 23% contained

According to the National Forest Service (NFS), the Three Rivers Fire, which was first sighted on April 28 in the Lincoln National Forest is now at 7,119 acres with 23% containment and the current state of the fire is “minimal,” “creeping,” and “smoldering.”

“Gusty southwesterly winds and single digit humidity have resulted in red-flag conditions over the fire area throughout the burn period this afternoon” and “Remaining pockets of heat which had essentially hibernated in pockets of dead/downed slash will accelerate burning out and produce slightly increased smoke” over the next 12 hours.

Moderate weather continues light westerly winds, humidity levels around 20%, and little cloud cover is expected within the next 48 hours. Continued burning out of isolated smoldering areas and no perimeter growth is expected.

Over the next 72 hours, “Generally, expect small-scale surges in fire activity during the afternoons alternating with smoldering overnight and into the late mornings. Isolated pockets of fire are to be expected, rather than entire flanks of fire due to the heterogeneous nature of fuel continuity.”

“Creeping and smoldering in individual pockets of heat” will occur, “primarily within the upper reaches of Dry Bear Canyon and the small area of heat in the saddle above Indian Creek.”

The Three Rivers Fire has 317 personnel currently battling the blaze, and according to NPS, the containment date of the fire is projected for Friday, June 04th, 2021 at approximately 12:00 a.m. 

An aerial video shot on May 1 shows recent developments of the fire and where the fire has burned. Watch that here. An update from Operations Section Chief-T Manual Martinez can be viewed here.

Drag queen ‘jello shot girl’ and ex-prostitute seeking NM state House seat

Democrat state Rep. Melanie Stansbury is currently running for Congress in the First District of New Mexico against Republican state Sen. Mark Moores in the June First election following the resignation of Congresswoman Deb Haaland to become Interior secretary. If Stansbury keeps the district in Democrat hands, that would mean her seat in the state House could be up for grabs.

One individual has already expressed interest in filling Stansbury’s seat in the 28th House district if she does end up going to Washington. A sex work enthusiast and “jello shot girl” named “Bunnie Benton Cruse” has announced interest in the legislative seat, claiming to be a transgender woman, although he has previously been listed as a “drag queen.”

Cruse made headlines in 2019 when a public, taxpayer-funded library hosted a “Drag Queen Story Time” event where he and another drag queen read to young children. 

According to Cruse’s Facebook page at the time, he worked as a “Jello Shot Girl” at the gay bar Effex Albuquerque, and as the “Head Stripper” at “Shake N Bake.”

According to the New Mexico Political Report, the news arm of far-left ProgressNow NM:

“Benton Cruse has a conviction for sex work, which she is open about. She said that when she was young, another trans person told her there were three paths available to her in life: bartending, hair dressing or sex work.

She said she has done all three.

“I’m not ashamed for anything I’ve done to survive as a trans woman. It was survival sex work,” she said.

“Along the way, our trans elders fought for us to be bartenders and hairstylists. Now a trans person can be a lawyer or a doctor, you can be in elected office,” she said.

Cruse, who openly has a “conviction” for prostitution, would not be the first controversial figure to seek public office. State Rep. Roger Montoya (D-Colfax, Mora, Rio Arriba & San Miguel), who was endorsed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2020, was a porn actor before running for his state legislative seat. 

Pro-abortion former Planned Parenthood lobbyist and current executive director of “Equality New Mexico,” Marshall Martinez, said Cruse’s potential “really is super historic.”

If Stansbury leaves the seat, the Bernalillo County Commission will decide who to appoint to House District 28. This announcement may make the stakes even higher for Republicans to flip the First House District seat because Stansbury’s possible replacement may have an even farther-left radical bent. 

‘They’re giving up on him’: Gov. MLG refuses to help family find missing National Guardsman

On Saturday, the family of Juan Muñoz, a 20-year-old National Guardsman, who has been missing since February, held a gathering of about 50 people across the street from the New Mexico State Police (NMSP) station on Paseo del Cañon, reported the Taos News

Muñoz’s family is trying to get NMSP investigators to seek answers about his disappearance. His car was found at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge with all of his belongings, which the investigators have brushed off as a suicide, which is common at the Gorge Bridge. 

But Muñoz’s family have brought attention “that the guards at the Gorge Bridge had seen Muñoz’s car pull up, followed by another car, shortly after 8 p.m. on Feb. 19th, the day before Muñoz’s disappearance.” 

Elizabeth Rivera, Muñoz’s mother, said that she has tried calling Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her help several times but had not yet received any responses.

“He wanted to serve this country and they’re giving up on him. That’s not right. They can’t give up on somebody that wanted to fight for our country,” said Carla Muñoz, Juan’s cousin, as she questioned why they were not able to see footage of Juan leaving the National Guard Armory, and were given different answers as to why not.

“You guys make them swear a commitment to you guys expecting them to be there every weekend, but when they go missing you give up just like that?” asked Vidal Aragon, another of Juan’s cousins, of the National Guard, who they hope will assist in the investigation. “We need you guys to show us that he left that base.”

The News reported that “Several family members pointed out that at the beginning of the rally, there were several state police officers across the street, but that they quickly departed. Some of Muñoz’s cousins also pointed out a NMSP officer parked around the corner with the vehicle on, seemingly watching the event.” 

It is still unclear if the family has gotten ahold of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s office for help since Saturday, but they are organizing three more rallies: one by the Gorge bridge, one at the Taos plaza, and one in front of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

Liberal paper appears to glorify 19th century forced vaccinations to promote COVID-19 shot

On Sunday, liberal columnist and news writer Algernon D’Ammassa of the Las Cruces Sun-News appeared to praise Deming, New Mexico’s forcible vaccination in the 19th century during the smallpox outbreak.

In a column titled “How forced vaccinations and a brothel fought smallpox in Deming, New Mexico,” he drew similarities between the present-day COVID-19 pandemic with that of smallpox, citing a historian, C.A. “Gus” Gustafson, who said “door-to-door smallpox vaccinations were free to the public, ‘voluntary to most but forcefully to the reticent.’”

He said, “These men are not here to discuss constitutional theory or jurisprudence, nor to explore community ethics. They are here to inoculate you against a deadly contagious disease.” 

“Smallpox, eradicated by 1980 thanks to a global vaccination effort yet preserved in frozen vials around the world, laughs at COVID-19. Caused by the variola virus, it is highly contagious, producing dangerous fevers and lesions, often stealing one’s eyesight,” writes D’Amassa.

He says that “By the time smallpox arrived in Deming late in 1916, the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled in favor of compulsory vaccinations in the interest of public health,” but noted how the COVID-19 disease is much less deadly than smallpox was in those days.

D’Amassa cites a Boston Globe report from that era which wrote, “writhing, cursing, struggling tramps … held down in their cots, one big policeman sitting on their legs, and another on their heads, while the third held the arms, bared for the doctors.”

“Deming seems to have gone even further than mandatory vaccinations. Physician Pinkney Minor Steed, who led the vaccination effort, also commandeered the brothel on San Carlos Street north of the railroad tracks, by Gustafson’s account, after the local hospital was overrun,” he continued.

D’Amassa wrote that since forcible inoculation, “we are in a different time both medically and legally,” where he happily got his COVID-19 vaccine, which has had many clinical reactions, by choice at the Deming Walmart.

“Instead of introducing a pathogen into my body — which troubles many vaccine resisters — this one instructed my body to create a spiky protein similar to SARS-CoV-2 so my body could practice how to kill it. This is why I experienced a mild fever and fatigue the following day,” he wrote.

He then said, “The vaccine is free and the state is imploring, not forcing, people to take it…. we are having arguments over how much we should accommodate healthy adults who refuse to be vaccinated.”

The COVID-19 vaccine is still in its infancy, currently in an experimental stage based on “emergency use authorization” by the FDA. In contrast, smallpox was active for centuries, with the first vaccine originating in 1796 and the world fighting the disease completely by 1980–184 years later. 

D’Amassa appears to glorify the medical practice of forced injection in the 19th century, trying to push the point that people were being forced to have a shot because it was “a deadly contagious disease.” He then tries to lump in the COVID-19 vaccine with his personal experience by downplaying the side effects of the vaccine while promoting the fact that it is not being “forced” on Americans.

However, even right here in New Mexico, workers have been allegedly forced to take the jab in many government agencies. In one case, a Doña Ana County Detention Center officer, Isaac Legaretta, sued his managers, claiming they threatened he would be fired if he did not take the COVID-19 vaccine. This is the first forcible vaccination lawsuit in the nation.

On Friday, Joe Biden announced he “may order all U.S. military forces to receive the coronavirus vaccine at a time of troubling voluntary acceptance rates among some troops.” 

The glorification of forced vaccination in the past by D’Amassa and the pending litigation regarding such a practice today could very well scare people into taking the COVID-19 vaccine in fear of government retaliation.

NBC News did a piece on Americans that may be forced to get the vaccine:

ABQ restaurant shut down by State Police after employees defy Gov. MLG’s mask mandates

On Friday, it was reported that Old Town Albuquerque restaurant Backstreet Grill had been shut down due to employees defying Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s mask mandates despite the CDC allowing fully vaccinated people to be outside without masks. 

The restaurant, which was previously shut down in 2020 for similar complaints, had been shuttered after multiple nameless, faceless individuals complained via Yelp about servers not wearing masks. 

“The hostess did not wear a mask. I asked her if she would, she said no,” one review said. “He kind of leaned over towards us, still no mask, to point at the menu. I asked him if he could wear a mask. He flat out said no,” said another.

KRQE 13 checked out the situation, where they caught multiple employees not wearing masks while serving food in the fresh outdoor air. 

The news station reached out to Christopher Cordova, one of the restaurant’s managers, for comment. He wrote back, saying, “We live in America where mandates are not laws, we have the right to refuse to wear a mask.” When asked if he would share his side on camera, he replied, “I’m not interested in talking about masks. It’s very boring for me.”

The station got a comment from Albuquerque Environmental Health Department’s Mark DiMenna, who said, “Very few instances where anyone flagrantly disregarding what the public health order is asking for,” and that “This is sort of an exceptional situation.”

After KRQE 13 reached out to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s environmental health departments, the restaurant was shut down by the New Mexico State Police just a few hours later for violating the health order. 

Other restaurants and other institutions across the state have been mask shamed and harassed by Gov. Lujan Grisham’s administrations throughout the pandemic. Her State Police have been employed as attack dogs to implement her orders while she has called out specific establishments and jurisdictions across the state during her COVID-19 press conferences, including Hobbs and Española. 

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