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ABQ demand for large office spaces is strong, CBRE report says – Albuquerque Business First

First-quarter demand for office space in the Albuquerque market was almost 20 percent lower than the five-year quarterly average despite growth in office-using jobs, according to a report compiled by real estate investment firm CBRE.

But first-quarter vacancy statistics were partially skewed by two large tenants relocating to buildings not classified as offices or not tracked by CBRE, the report noted.

The office sector in the Albuquerque metropolitan statistical area added 2,900 net jobs in the year ending in January, a 1 percent increase year-over-year. Demand for large office space is expected to remain strong for the rest of 2018, especially in the education and business services industries.

Vacant space in Class A buildings, the most-desirable, premium office spaces, remained at a record low for first quarter 2018.

Leasing activity in the first quarter included about 151,000 square feet of office space. The overall vacancy rate stood at 20.4 percent. The $15.59 per square foot gross median asking rate was up $0.09 from a year ago. No significant rent growth is expected in the coming quarters.

The median asking lease rate for Class A buildings fell by 1.9 percent from last quarter to $22.94, while the Class B rate rose slightly from $18.25 last quarter to $18.50 this quarter. The Class C rate remained unchanged quarter-to-quarter at $14.50.

During the first quarter, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services downsized and vacated almost 35,000 square feet to relocate to a 17,000-square-foot industrial R&D/flex building, and New Mexico Mutual vacated 31,000 square feet of leased space to move into its own newly-built 58,000-square-foot office building. Brown Mackie College also vacated more than 43,000 square feet.

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Forgotten New Mexico development is a haven for dumping | Miami Herald

It was supposed to be a planned development aimed at giving residents a taste of the desert of the American West, in all its peace and natural beauty.

Instead, an isolated, unincorporated area northwest of Albuquerque has become a harbor for illegal shooting ranges and the disposal of stolen cars, old appliances and even bodies.

The land known as Rio Rancho Estates, once envisioned as place for upscale homes, is a popular spot for illegal dumping, the Albuquerque Journal reports . That’s because of easy access provided by about 660 miles (1,060 kilometers) of well-maintained dirt roads, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Keith Elder said.

He says almost 40 percent of all stolen cars that were recovered throughout the county last year were found within 21 square miles (54 square kilometers).

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Since August, the bodies of two slain Albuquerque residents have been left in the barren area.

The land also is used for legal and illegal recreation. ATV riders zoom around curves and hills, and gun enthusiasts empty their rifles at makeshift targets.

Officials say around 1,200 people live in the area, based on a 2010 estimate of more than 500 homes in the area. Many live in mobile homes and trailers, mainly powered by generators and with wells or storage tanks for water.

The county doesn’t have a specific plan to develop the area as it envisioned decades ago.

Although the barren expanse is largely ignored by the public on a day-to-day basis, it has cropped up in the news and in court documents related to two murders out of Albuquerque in the past eight months.

One August evening, for example, detectives say two men and a woman drove a Chevy Silverado king-cab to an off-roading area to bury the mutilated body of a man they are accused of killing over a drug debt.

In mid-September, authorities found the body of John Soyka, 41, buried in a shallow grave off a wide, sandy road. Six months later, Albuquerque police crime scene tape remained ensnared in cactus spines at the scene.

Chase Smotherman and Mariah Ferry are charged in Soyka’s death. Their trials are pending.

Then, in January, another homicide investigation began about 5 miles (8 kilometers) southeast.

Sandoval County sheriff’s deputies found the charred body of Marilyn Gandert, 65, of Albuquerque on a mattress.

No one has been charged in her death.

Some days, gunfire is a near constant echo as recreational shooters risk fines or even jail time if they’re caught by law enforcement. Piles of shotgun shells and bullet casings cluster on overlooks and in shallow gullies.

Illegal shooting is one of the most common reasons Sandoval County sheriff’s deputies are called to the Rio Rancho Estates Area west of the city, officials said.

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NM tops nation in wind-energy growth

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico ranked as the nation’s fastest-growing state for wind-energy construction last year, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association.

The state added enough new turbines to produce 571 megawatts of electricity, growing installed capacity by 51 percent to 1.68 gigawatts, according to the association’s 2017 annual market report, released this morning in Santa Fe. That’s enough electricity to power about 422,000 average U.S. homes every year.

And New Mexico could maintain front-running status for another couple of years, with 1.7 GW of new wind construction projects now in the pipelines for installation through 2020, said association spokesman Evan Vaughn.

“New Mexico is poised to double its wind generation in the near term,” Vaughn told the Journal’s editorial board on Monday. “It had the fastest growth rate of any state in the nation in 2017. There’s tremendous momentum underway.”

The Washington, D.C.-based association chooses a different state each year to unveil its annual report. It released this year’s study in a press conference at the Roundhouse to honor the state for its leadership in wind generation.

Nationwide, installed capacity grew by nearly 9 percent last year to nearly 89 GW. That’s enough electricity to power about 27 million homes, representing about 6.3 percent of the country’s total generating capacity.

New Mexico now derives about 13.5 percent of its electricity from wind energy. It’s one of only 14 states where wind turbines provide more than 10 percent of total generation, although some states use much more, with up to 30 percent in Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

The association reports about $145 billion in wind energy investments nationwide over the last decade, including $11 billion last year. About 105,000 people now work in the industry, including 23,000 in manufacturing.

New Mexico has attracted about $3 billion in investments to date, with more than 3,000 people employed here.

“Employment runs the full gamut, from front-end field workers who assess wind resources and work with local communities to construction jobs and long-term employment for operations and maintenance folks,” said John Hensley, association director for research and analytics. “Wind technicians make up one of the two fastest-growing jobs nationwide alongside solar installers.”

It particularly benefits rural communities, which absorb about 99 percent of investment, Hensley said. It also generates substantial local and state taxes, plus income for land owners.

In New Mexico, property owners now earn between $5 million and $10 million annually, said Interwest Energy Alliance Executive Director Sarah Cottrell Propst.

“It’s an economic development tool that helps to diversify the economy with competitive, high-paying jobs,” she said.

It’s also good for the environment, offsetting 189 million metric tons of carbon emissions last year, or the equivalent of 40 million cars. In New Mexico, it offset about 466,000 metric tons, or about 99,000 cars.

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The Latest: Albuquerque immigrant measure goes to mayor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Latest on an Albuquerque City Council vote on a measure supporting immigrant-friendly policies (all times local):

10:20 p.m.

The Albuquerque City Council has approved a measure that would prevent federal immigration officers from entering a prisoner transport center without a warrant, and prohibit local tax dollars from being used to enforce federal immigration laws.

The measure debated Monday seeks to bolster the New Mexico city’s “immigrant friendly” status — which briefly came under scrutiny within the Trump administration last year as the Justice Department sought to pressure cities into cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The Albuquerque measure would also bar city workers, including police, from collecting information on peoples’ immigration status.

It must go before Mayor Tim Keller for final approval before coming law.

The vote comes after a federal judge last week issued a nationwide injunction barring the U.S. Justice Department from giving priority status for policing grants to departments that agree to cooperate with immigration officials.

3:40 p.m.

The Albuquerque City Council plans to vote on a measure Monday evening that would prevent federal immigration officers from entering a prisoner transport center without a warrant, and prohibit local tax dollars from being used to enforce federal immigration laws.

The measure seeks to bolster the New Mexico city’s “immigrant friendly” status — which briefly came under scrutiny within the Trump administration last year as the Justice Department sought to pressure cities into cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The Albuquerque measure would also bar city workers, including police, from collecting information on peoples’ immigration status.

The vote comes after a federal judge last week issued a nationwide injunction barring the U.S. Justice Department from giving priority status for policing grants to departments that agree to cooperate with immigration officials.

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What your favorite TV characters would actually pay in rent for their apartments in the real world

Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment probably costs about $2,272.
Television shows often give unrealistic expectations of how much it actually costs to afford an apartment in a big city. Carrie Bradshaw likely could not have afforded her living space on the Upper East Side on her writer’s salary.The friends on "New Girl" could very well afford their Los Angeles-based apartment in real life.

Have you ever watched one of your favorite shows and pondered how a character could afford their giant city apartment on a small salary? Us too. So we decided to do a bit of investigative work to see what the TV homes we see on screen would actually cost.

We teamed up with the data experts at Trulia to analyze layout and neighborhoods to determine the modern day costs of each space. Big surprise? Most of the homes have some pretty hefty price tags and the apartments have crazy high rent. Read ahead to see the IRL costs of some famous on-screen abodes.

Even though Marnie’s studio in "Girls" is laughably small (especially once her husband Desi tries building a wall), the spot in NYC’s Chinatown probably still costs a whopping $2,575 a month.

For someone who struggles financially, Hannah has definitely benefitted from splitting rent in her two-bedroom apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Trulia estimates that the rent might have been $2,500 per month.

With a home value of $3,023,753, it makes sense why six people are needed to pay rent for the Palo Alto incubator house owned by Erlich Bachmann.

We totally dug the open layout of Dev’s studio apartment in "Master Of None." However, we wouldn’t want to spend $2,561 per month to live in the Williamsburg pad totally solo.

Hopefully superhero Jessica Jones is making quite a bit of money as a private eye. Her Hell’s Kitchen pre-war apartment most likely costs $3,250. However, since Jessica Jones lives in the Marvel universe, average prices might be a bit different.

While the meth lab probably would have lowered the price even further, Walter White’s three-bedroom home in Albuquerque, New Mexico likely cost $187,788.

While Titus and Kimmy always chat about how cheap their one-bedroom basement apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is, the rent is actually probably $2,400 per month.

The home of the Dunphy family is located in LA’s Cheviot Hills. With a great yard and neighborhood, the two-story four-bedroom home most likely costs around $3.26 million.

People have argued for years that Carrie probably couldn’t afford her Upper East Side apartment with that killer closet on a writer’s salary. Well if she still lived there today as a single thirty-something, the same would be true. Her spot most likely costs $3,000 per month.

Although Stars Hollow isn’t a real Connecticut town, Trulia was able to estimate that the stars’ two-bedroom home would cost around $445,000.

Abbi shares her apartment in Astoria, Queens with her always-absent roommate’s boyfriend Bevers. Total rent for the two-bedroom is most likely $2,200 per month.

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Texas officials may elevate 200 flood-prone homes

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) – Preliminary estimates indicate that a hurricane recovery program in southeast Texas could elevate as many as 200 homes that have been repeatedly flooded.

The Daily News reports that Galveston County commissioners received details about the plan Monday from Grantworks, consultants hired to facilitate disaster recovery planning.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry says commissioners must next notify the Texas Department of Emergency Management about interest in funds to create the program.

The department plans to release $500 million in hazardous mitigation funds across Texas. Galveston County officials expect to receive a large portion of those funds to raise homes flooded by Hurricane Harvey, though efforts would focus on structures that have flooded multiple times.

Henry says the program would likely require homeowners to help cover part of the project’s cost.

Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Festive cascarones a NM tradition

These eggs are filled with confetti and are part of the cascarones tradition. (Elaine D. Briseño/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Being a New Mexican at Easter time might translate into a scalp full of confetti.

The Easter season across the nation brings religious devotion, the hunt for colored eggs, family gatherings and good food, but there’s another tradition New Mexicans have embraced since the 1800s.

A dozen cascarones peek out of an egg carton. The eggs are filled with confetti and broken over a person’s head in celebration of the end of Lent.

As New Mexican families sit down to decorate hard-boiled eggs for the big hunt on Easter Sunday, they practice another tradition. They paint and decorate empty eggshells, refill them with confetti and seal them up with tape or tissue paper. The confetti-filled eggs are known as cascarones, and come Easter Sunday or soon after, those eggs get cracked over the heads of some suspecting, or maybe not so suspecting, family members and friends. The word “cascaron” comes from the Spanish word “cascara,” which means eggshell.

“People will start saving cascarones (eggshells) early before the Lenten season,” said retired professor Juan López. “Then the family will gather a week or two before Easter with the kids to decorate them.”

Elaborate cascarones are for sale at the annual Baile de los Cascarones event in Santa Fe. The tradition spread to Mexico in the 1800s from Europe and worked its way north. (Source Courtesy of Carla Aragón)

Lopez grew up in the former mining town of Santa Rita, N.M., near Silver City. His family practiced the tradition when he was child growing up there. The mine’s expansion gobbled up the small town but not his family tradition. Lopez has passed it on to his own children and grandchildren and even wrote and self-published a book about the tradition.

The idea of emptying an egg and filling it with something else started in Asia, where the eggs were filled with perfumed powder. Explorer Marco Polo took the custom to Italy. The tradition eventually spread to Spain and finally Mexico in the mid-1800s.

Eight-year-old Carla Aragón sells cascarones at the annual Baile de los Cascarones in Santa Fe. (Source Courtesy of Carla Aragón)

The practice came to New Mexico with travelers using El Camino Real Historic Trail, according former TV reporter Carla Aragón, who wrote a children’s book on the subject in 2010 called “Dance of the Eggshells (Baile de los Cascarones).” Aragón, who is from Santa Fe, celebrated the tradition with her family as a child but their celebration had an added component – a dance.

“In the old days, people would not eat meat for all of the Lenten season,” she said. “What they did to get protein was make a lot of egg dishes. They also couldn’t dance (during Lent).”

A week after Lent ended, residents of northern New Mexico would get together to celebrate and take joy in being allowed to once again dance. She said the dances would bring people from the community, some of whom lived in far rural areas, together. The La Sociedad Folklórica group in Santa Fe has tried to preserve this tradition by hosting an annual Baile de los Cascarones. For the event, the group makes cascarones that are sold during the dance.

“If you want to ask someone to dance, you break an egg on their head,” Aragón said. “It’s said the people with the most confetti in their hair are the most popular dancers.”

Aragón’s mother, Socorro Aragón, is one of the Sociedad’s longest-term members. Socorro Aragón said her group preserves New Mexican traditions, including cascarones and the dance. She said the dances attract between 200 and 300 people. This year’s dance will be held April 7 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Tickets for the event are $10 for adults, $15 per couple, $2 for children ages 6 to 17 and those younger are free. The dance will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. The celebration will feature traditional couple dances.

“We’ve (La Sociedad) bee doing the dances for over 80 years,” Socorro Aragón said. “The tradition is that all the families go to the dance and see their friends. During the Lenten season they wouldn’t necessarily do that.”

How to make cascarones
• Tap the bottom of the egg and peel away a hole about a half-inch wide.
• Dump out the eggs into a bowl for later use.• Rinse out the eggshells and let them dry upside down in the carton.

• When completely dry, dye or decorate the eggs. A normal egg-coloring kit can be used for this task.

• Let dry once again and then fill with confetti, which can be purchased or made.

• Apply glue around the hole and apply a small square of tissue paper to seal the confetti inside.

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Winning by doing the right thing

Bill Hoberg is co-owner of Glass-Rite Windows & Doors. The company is being honored this year with an Ethics in Business Award. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ethics are a matter of basic common sense to the winners of this year’s New Mexico Ethics in Business Awards.

The winners don’t talk much about things like ethics training. Instead, they focus on simply doing right by customers and the people they serve.

Glass-Rite Windows & Doors is the winner in the for-profit business category, while the individual award goes to Ralph Baldwin, CEO of Enterprise Builders Corp.

Sterling Brown, director of clinical services at Haven Behavioral Health of Albuquerque, is the Young Ethical Leader of the year, and Special Olympics New Mexico is the nonprofit organization winner.

Glass-Rite Windows & Doors, owned by brothers Bill and Steve Hoberg, have strived to keep customers happy by delivering a quality product at a fair price. Their business is a winner in the New Mexico Ethics in Business Awards. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“It’s not that hard to do the over-and-above to make (customers) happy,” said Glass-Rite owner and President Bill Hoberg, adding, “It makes me happier every day.”

This year’s awards program is hosted by Central New Mexico Community College, which took over after longtime sponsor Samaritan Counseling Center closed last year.

“We’re very proud that these four will be the first winners with CNM as the host,” said Samantha Sengel, chief advancement and community engagement officer for the college. “They don’t know it yet, but they’ll be part of the CNM family.”

The award winners were nominated last year and went through an extensive review by students from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management. A nine-member selection committee interviewed finalists and chose the winners.

“By the time you get to the finalist stage, they’re all impressive,” said committee Chairman Eric Weinstein, executive vice president of Aon Risk Solutions. “They’re rewarding to learn about.”

He said the winners honor the legacy of the awards program. The committee can select up to three winners in the for-profit category. In the last few years, it chose two firms. This year, it felt strongly about just one of the finalists, Weinstein said.

CNM, CNM Ingenuity and the CNM Foundation will be involved in the program going forward, and proceeds from the annual event will support ethics training programs and help fund scholarships for CNM students dedicated to ethics.

CNM is excited to use the awards program as a springboard to heighten the conversation about ethics in the community and plans to host a community discussion this fall, Sengel said.

Glass-Rite

From the time Bill Hoberg and his brother, Steve, bought Glass-Rite Windows & Doors in 1988, they have strived to keep their customers happy by delivering a quality product at a fair price.

That can be a tough order to fill in the remodeling business, but the Hobergs focus on making things right.

“You may spend more money on a job, but in the end you have a customer who likes you, who recommends you,” Bill Hoberg said, adding that he doesn’t have a lot of unhappy ex-employees or suppliers either. Even employees who have been fired have returned to buy Glass-Rite windows.

The Hobergs built a culture of putting customers first, from the guys who work in the shop to the folks who install their products.

“A lot of it comes down to how much the employees care about the (customers),” Hoberg said. “The ones who don’t care don’t stay for long.”

That attitude is part of what earned Glass-Rite the Rust Award for Excellence in Ethical Business Practice by a For-Profit Business.

Glass-Rite has many repeat customers and gets more than 60 percent of its business from word-of-mouth. The company has won Super Service Awards from Angie’s List in every year but one since 2007.

When the Environmental Protection Agency made lead-based paint testing mandatory for window replacement projects, Glass-Rite faced a potential ethical dilemma. The company could have skirted the requirement, as Hoberg said many other companies have done, but instead it spent about $20,000 to gear up for the testing.

“That puts us at odds where we have to charge more and do more, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” Hoberg said.

Glass-Rite also is actively involved in the community. Employees work on company time to help build ramps for seniors as part of the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico’s Care program. Glass-Rite has participated in efforts with the Make a Wish Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and Endorphin Power Co.

“Their contribution is significant and solid,” said Doug Keaty, a general contractor and chairman of Home Builders Care. “They’re always willing to help and eager to give back to the community.”

Keaty said Glass-Rite also is a green company, selling energy-efficient windows that are made in New Mexico to handle weather extremes and don’t experience the elevation-related problems of windows manufactured at sea level. Making windows locally also helps the Albuquerque economy and avoids transportation impacts of shipping products from out of state, he said.

Ralph Baldwin

Ralph Baldwin says his company, Enterprise Builders, focuses on developing relationships with clients and earning their trust and confidence. It was a winner in this year’s Ethics in Business Awards. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Just as the Hoberg brothers were taking over Glass-Rite about three decades ago, Ralph Baldwin was starting up Enterprise Builders with his partner, David Doyle.

Albuquerque was in the midst of a severe commercial construction downturn, the firm where they both worked was shutting its doors and there were few other opportunities. So, they took out second mortgages on their homes and founded their own construction business.

“The big motivation, truly, was that we thought we could do it quicker, better, smarter, faster and less expensively for customers,” Baldwin said. “We’ve always held that any business transaction has to be a win-win for everybody. A win-lose transaction in my mind is really a lose-lose.”

Winning the PNM Award for Individual Excellence in Ethical Business Practice has been mind-boggling for Baldwin, who said he was humbled to be “recognized for doing the right thing.”

His company has focused on building relationships with clients and earning their trust and confidence. Enterprise still is doing work for one of its first clients and has built many projects for Presbyterian Healthcare Services and other firms.

It also offers generous benefits that have helped build a workforce of 44 full-time employees, including many who have been with the company more than two decades. The firm has a tradition of promoting from within, resulting in low employee turnover, and has converted to an employee stock option plan.

“Truly, everybody shares in the rewards of the company,” Baldwin said.

Corporate giving and community involvement also are priorities for Enterprise, which donates to the Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation and is a co-sponsor of its Laughter is the Best Medicine fundraiser.

“We really focus on giving back because we understand that the community is what allows us to be successful,” Baldwin said.

When it comes to ethics, he said, it’s a simple matter of respect, honesty and doing what you say you’ll do. “What would you do if mom was sitting at the table?” he asked. “It’s that simple.”

Special Olympics New Mexico

Athletes take part in a Special Olympics hockey tournament in Farmington. The organization offers sports training and competition in 12 sports to people with intellectual disabilities. (Courtesy of Rebecca Rainsberger/Special Olympics New Mexico)

This year’s Hopkins Award for Excellence in Ethical Practice by a Nonprofit Organization went to Special Olympics New Mexico, which has been serving the state since 1977.

The organization offers sports training and competition in 12 sports to people with intellectual disabilities, teaching them teamwork, commitment and the principle of practice leading to improvement.

“We transform their lives through sport, improve quality of life and build inclusive communities statewide,” said Executive Director Randy Mascorella.

At state competitions, volunteer health professionals offer screenings as part of the Healthy Athletes initiative. For example, an athlete might see a dentist or have a vision exam so they can be fitted with eyeglasses that allow them to see the golf ball or the basketball rim when they compete.

The United Champion Schools program partners special education and regular education students to play sports together, teaching acceptance and reducing bullying.

Special Olympics works hard to put the athletes first and, as long as it is doing that, it is doing things right, Mascorella said, adding that the organization must make decisions and build relationships with the highest standards because its actions reflect on the athletes. “If we weren’t seen in the best light, people would think badly of them.”

Sometimes putting the athletes first – all the athletes – can lead to difficult decisions. When Special Olympics athletes gather to compete at the 50th anniversary games in Seattle this year, New Mexico will be the only state not represented.

“We’ve received quite a lot of pressure,” Mascorella said, explaining that she could not justify spending $60,000 or more to send a team at a time when the organization is facing budget troubles. “That (money) would make a big difference here for the other athletes that we’re serving.”

Sterling Brown

Sterling Brown, director of clinical services at Haven Behavioral Health of Albuquerque, is the one of the winners in this year’s New Mexico Ethics in Business Awards. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Ethical challenges come with the territory for licensed clinical social worker Sterling Brown. As director of clinical services at the Haven Behavioral Health inpatient psychiatric facility in Albuquerque, he regularly makes tough decisions.

“In social work in general, there are a lot of ethical gray areas,” he said. “We’re dealing with human lives.”

Brown, 30, is the winner of the Young Ethical Leader award.

At Haven, he has responsibility for the care and legal status of patients and often must decide whether to commit someone to treatment against their wishes or to refuse inpatient care.

“That’s something I have to put a lot of my heart and my decisional capacity into – forcing someone to stay in a locked facility when they don’t want to stay and don’t think anything’s wrong with them,” Brown said.

In other cases, patients want to be admitted but don’t meet the clinical criteria. Brown also must juggle the sometimes-competing needs of patients and the for-profit hospital for which he works.

“I have to constantly walk a line of making sure we have a full census and making sure the patients we’re bringing in need the services,” he said. “I get a lot of really awesome support from my CEO here as well as the other directors. … When it comes to making ethical decisions, it’s always something that requires a lot of support and a lot of experience.”

Brown, who is responsible for intake and social services at the adult hospital, oversees a staff of 23 counselors.

“My passion really is in severe mental illness,” he said. “It can be really intense, but that’s also what I find to be the most fulfilling.”

Brown also is an adjunct teacher at New Mexico State University’s Albuquerque campus, is on track to earn his doctorate in behavioral health this summer and is married with three young children.

19th Annual New Mexico Ethics in Business Awards Banquet
WHEN: 5:30-8:30 p.m., April 25
WHERE: Sandia Resort and Casino
SUGGESTED ATTIRE: Cocktail/business professional
TICKETS: 505-224-4685 or ethicsinbusinessnm.com/rsvp/

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New Mexico attorney general goes after rooftop solar company

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A residential rooftop solar provider that operates in New Mexico and 20 other states was accused Thursday by the state attorney general of defrauding residents and jeopardizing their home ownership through deceptive sales practices.

Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit in state district court against Vivint Solar, Inc. over claims that the company was engaging in a pattern of unfair and unconscionable business practices, fraud and racketeering.

The case centers on the company’s door-to-door sales tactics and agreements made with customers to purchase power from the solar panel systems. Similar complaints by prosecutors in other states have resulted in settlements.

Vivint said it takes the allegations seriously but believes the lawsuit lacks merit.

"Our commitment to our customers is to provide them the opportunity to adopt clean, renewable energy while always adhering to the highest ethical sales standards. We believe we have honored this commitment in New Mexico and that our practices in the state comply with applicable law," company spokeswoman Helen Langan wrote in an email.

New Mexico prosecutors say an investigation has identified hundreds of clouded titles among Vivint’s customers in the state.

According to the complaint, Vivint binds New Mexico consumers into 20-year contracts that require consumers to purchase electricity generated by the solar panels installed on their homes at rates that increase by over 72 percent during the 20 years.

Prosecutors alleged the sales model allows staff to overstate the cost savings to consumers and to tell consumers that they may save 50 percent or more on their rates compared to the Public Service Co. of New Mexico, an electric utility that serves much of the state.

"Consumer complaints highlight the cumulative impact of Vivint’s multiple false statements and unfair business practices from the initial door-to-door sales pitch through design of solar systems to the billing for their production," the complaint states.

The complaint also accuses Vivint of filing improper notices in consumer real estate records. In some cases, prosecutors say the documentation makes it difficult for consumers to sell their homes.

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Verizon is an ABF 2018 Healthiest Employers Awards honoree – Albuquerque Business First

Albuquerque Business First is hosting its sixth Healthiest Employers Awards to honor 18 companies in New Mexico that have succeeded in creating healthy workplaces for its employees.

The 2018 Healthiest Employers Awards will take place at the Health Summit on Thursday, March 8 at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The awards event will be preceded by a health panel discussion led by various New Mexico health care professionals.

Verizon

Giant company category honoree (more than 5,000 employees)

This nationwide telecommunications company recognizes the correlation between healthy employees and productive employees. Verizon has invested in onsite health and wellness centers throughout the country, and New Mexico is no exception.

Verizon employees have access to an onsite gym facility, locker rooms, showers and two full-time health & wellness coordinators. These wellness professionals organize health events, fitness classes and individualized training programs to help employees stay healthy and fit both in and out of the office.

Both employees and their families are invited to participate in activities such as co-ed sports leagues, weekend hikes and community outreach. The company also holds quarterly charity drives in partnership with local schools, Roadrunner Food Bank and local domestic violence shelters.

Verizon’s benefits package includes a free tobacco cessation resource called QuitNet, which employees and their spouses can utilize. There is also a Backup Care Advantage program designed to provide temporary care for children or elderly family members.

The interactive online program, WellConnect, provides employees a portal to navigate their health statistics and monitor their progress.

When it comes to diet, Verizon encourages employees to eat healthy by providing healthier rewards and incentives through the onsite cafe. Employees can also take advantage of the call center’s game room and zen room, where they can engage in a ping pong battle or meditation break between taking calls.

Companies nominated themselves for the Healthiest Employers awards and completed an online survey of their wellness programs designed by Healthiest Employers LLC Albuquerque Business First’s survey partner. The survey was developed with input from doctors, human resources professionals and corporate executives. Each employer was scored using the Healthiest Employer Index, which measures factors such as an organization’s wellness culture, strategy, communications, programming and analysis. The highest scorers are our honorees.

New Mexico’s 2018 Healthiest Employers Awards is sponsored by True Health New Mexico Inc.

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