August 1 First News: Santa Fe to try novel approach to low-level drug crime. (listen)

Santa Fe City Council has unanimously approved a pre-booking diversion pilot program for some drug users known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion.. or "LEAD" for short. It identifies low-level drug offenders for whom probable cause exists for an arrest and redirects them from jail and prosecution by immediately providing links to treatment options. The program will begin early next year and is modeled after a similar effort used successfully in Seattle, Washington. Santa Fe Police say drug use fuels local property crime.  It also costs the City some $1.5 million annually for a law-enforcement-only approach.

In other news, the governing body has decided to move forward with a new transit center on the city’s southside. It’s to be built on city-owned land at Camino Entrada and Cerrillos Road, across from the Santa Fe Place shopping mall. Earlier plans for the transit center called for it to be built in one mall’s parking lots but the city was unable to reach an agreement with the owners.

Tonight's meeting of the city planning commission will see a second attempt by a developer to get approval to convert the old Manderfield school on Canyon Road into a mixed-use property.  They withdrew their first attempt following protests by neighbors.  The empty school is currently zoned for residential purposes only with a potential maximum of just five dwellings. The developer says rezoning could allow for 10 or more residences in addition to commercial activities.  Neighbors in the historic district say they will protest the plan because it differs from the one presented during neighborhood notification meetings and would open the door to even more commercial development in the area.

Mayor David Coss is actively encouraging Santa Feans to avail themselves of airline services at our municipal airport.  He has proclaimed August as "Fly Santa Fe Month" with hopes that the initiative will boost the local economy. Carriers American Eagle, United Express and Great Lakes offer daily services to Los Angeles, Dallas, Phoenix and Denver, often at prices comparable to those at the Albuquerque Sunport some 60 miles away.

New Mexico's 8th annual back-to-school tax free shopping weekend starts one minute after midnight tonight and runs through Sunday the 4th. Among items exempt from state sales tax are clothing and shoe purchases under $100, computers costing less than $1000 and individual school supplies below $15. The Santa Fe Public Schools district begins classes Wednesday, August 14th.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation and City of Santa Fe’s $1.9 million improvement project at Paseo de Peralta and Bishops Lodge Road/Washington Avenue is now substantially complete. Temporary signage has been removed and new traffic signals are in full operation. Work began back in March and included roadway reconstruction and ADA-compliant enhancements to sidewalks and curbs.

Weather for Santa Fe – A 50% chance for afternoon and evening thunderstorms today under partly sunny skies and highs in the low 80s. Where storms do occur, rain may be heavy at times. Chances for precipitation back off a bit tomorrow with just a 30% chance for showers, highs again in the low 80s.