Chicano Mural Threatened

A piece of the "Multi-Cultural" mural whose creation was headed by artist Gilberto Guzman is seen in Santa Fe on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. The iconic Chicano mural painted by Mexican-American artists is scheduled for destruction in 2020 to make way for a new contemporary museum, generating a debate about gentrification and whose culture state and city officials are seeking to preserve.

NEW MEXICO

Preserving Chicano mural could involve projecting it on wall

SANTA FE — New Mexico's plans to turn a state-owned building into a new contemporary art museum have been endorsed by a review board charged with preserving historic enclaves.

The Santa Fe Historic Districts Review Board after meeting Jan. 2 signed off on the revised design of the proposed structure, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The project initially drew sharp criticism for its aesthetics, its height and concerns about a 1980s Chicano mural that will be destroyed to make way for the new museum. Officials say the plans now call for honoring the decades-old mural by projecting it onto a blank wall.

Review Board member Jennifer Biedscheid said experts from the public and private sector both concluded that the "Multi-Cultural" mural was unstable with extensive cracking and, therefore, beyond repair. She said the state's design team plans to preserve it with the projection idea.

The mural was created at the end of the Chicano Movement, when similar murals in Los Angeles and San Diego were created to celebrate Mexican American and Native American culture and history.

The museum project is being spearheaded by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, which plans to remodel the state-owned Halpin Building into a museum showcasing contemporary art. The building is the former home of the State Records Center and Archives.

Governor issues order giving state workers paid parental leave

SANTA FE — Thousands of employees of state agencies overseen by the governor will be eligible for paid maternity and paternity leave for the first time, under an executive order announced on Dec. 31 by Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Taking effect Jan. 1, the order calls for 12 weeks of paid leave for the parents of newborn and adopted children. Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Sackett said the annual cost to taxpayers is estimated at roughly $5 million.

Lujan Grisham has been rapidly expanding the ranks of state government workers amid a surge in government income.

In commissioning paid paternity leave, Lujan Grisham cited the potential to improve worker morale, productivity, and physical and mental health.

Employees are eligible for paternal leave after completing a one-year probational period. Leave must be taken within six months of adoption or birth. Vacation and sick leave continue to accrue while employees are on parental leave.

The governor encouraged state agencies outside her authority to adopt the same leave provisions.

WYOMING

Grand Teton park begins killing invasive mountain goats

JACKSON — An operation to kill the mountain goats that have invaded Grand Teton National Park and threaten the existence of the park's struggling bighorn sheep herd is beginning this month, officials said.

A large swath of the high Tetons, including the north and west slopes of the iconic Cathedral Group, will be closed to the public as aerial gunners contracted by the park spend up to a week locating and shooting at the approximately 100 goats, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.

Park spokeswoman Denise Germann had no prediction about how many animals would be targeted, but said it's possible that at least one more week of aerial shooting will occur, depending on how this operation goes.

Park officials have also authorized ground-based hunters to kill goats, but that will not occur this winter, she said.

Shooters will use non-lead rounds from a shotgun or rifle, with the weapon type depending on the conditions.

The mountain goat population, migrants from the Snake River Range, has risen from estimated 10 to 15 animals seven years ago to recent estimates of more than a hundred.

The bighorn sheep herd, by contrast, is considered fragile. They have been pushed out of some of their best habitat by backcountry skiing activity, and their existence is threatened by potential disease transmission by the mountain goats.

MONTANA

Minority owner, operator try to keep Butte Bitcoin mine open

BUTTE — A minority owner and the operator of a cryptocurrency server farm in Butte are working to keep the operation open after the majority owner was indicted in a $722 million Ponzi scheme.

Kevin Washington and Rick Tabish filed lawsuits in District Court in Butte in late December seeking millions of dollars in damages from Matthew Brent Goettsche, the majority owner of CryptoWatt, The Montana Standard reported.

They also plan to ask the court this week to set up a receivership for CryptoWatt so it could resume operations.

Kevin Washington, son of billionaire industrialist Dennis Washington, said he invested "tens of millions" in the operation under a former owner.

CryptoWatt's electrical power transmission contract with NorthWestern Energy is in arrears, threatening the continued viability of the plant, Washington said. Maintaining that contract is key to the operation.

The 37-year-old Goettsche, of Lafayette, Colorado, is charged with conspiracy to engage in wire fraud in connection with his role in BitClub Network. The network solicited money from investors in exchange for purported shares of cryptocurrency mining pools, prosecutors said. Four other people also face charges. Prosecutors allege they were repaying earlier investors with money from new investors.

Bitcoin mining requires significant power usage to run specialized servers that process and record transactions in exchange for virtual currency. A Bitcoin was worth about $7,200 on Jan. 6. Its value peaked at $19,783 in late 2017.

OKLAHOMA

3 tribes sue governor over casino gambling

OKLAHOMA CITY — Three of the most powerful tribes in Oklahoma filed a federal lawsuit against the state's governor on Dec. 31, asking the court to help resolve a dispute over gambling at tribal casinos.

The Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations want a federal judge to determine whether the state compacts that allow gambling exclusively at tribal casinos automatically renew on Jan. 1 for another 15-year term. The tribes contend all the conditions have been met for the compacts to renew.

Oklahoma's new Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt contends the gaming compacts expire on Jan. 1 and that casino gambling after that date will be illegal. Stitt has signaled he wants to renegotiate the compacts to give the state a larger slice of revenue. An attempt by Stitt earlier in December to offer an extension of the compacts while negotiations continued was rejected by most of the tribes.

The dispute between the governor and the tribes has grown contentious since Stitt first suggested this summer that he wanted to renegotiate the compacts.

Tribal officials have signaled they are open to renegotiating the rates of the compacts, but not until the governor acknowledges that the compacts renew on Jan. 1. Stitt has not conceded that point and maintains the compacts expire.

Under the existing compacts, approved by Oklahoma voters in 2004, tribes pay the state "exclusivity fees" between 4% and 10% on gambling revenue in exchange for the exclusive right to operate casinos. Those fees generated nearly $139 million for the state in the 2018 fiscal year, most of it earmarked for education, on roughly $2.3 billion in revenue from games covered under the compacts.

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