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Nonviolent Drug Sentence Reductions

Dozens of New Mexicans have months shaved off their sentences for federal drug crimes

Local NewsThursday, February 11, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr

Even as Republican lawmakers push a series of tough new criminal sentencing bills in Santa Fe this month, federal officials, including New Mexico’s senior senator, are rethinking the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. 

A report prepared by the US Sentencing Commission and submitted to Congress in December 2015 (almost a year after SFR published “War on Sentences”) indicates that judges reduced sentences for 95 of 154 (or 61 percent) of the federal prisoners from New Mexico for retroactive relief under new federal guidelines.

Those prisoners had their sentences cut from 106 months to 88 months, an average reduction of 18 months. Another 59 applications were denied, but it’s not clear if those inmates applied despite having binding plea agreements or other technical disqualifications, including the use of a weapon in their crime.

Over the next five years, another 293 New Mexicans will become eligible to petition for early release after the US Sentencing Commission recommended a two-level drop on the sentencing matrix based on the quantities of drug trafficked.

Drug policy reform advocates, inmate families and politicians claim that mandatory sentences, which range from five years to life without the possibility of parole for third-time offenders, are too harsh and too costly.

They point to studies that have shown that longer jail sentences have a minimal effect on recidivism or increased public safety. They also contend skyrocketing prison costs (about $6.4 billion annually) has become an expensive taxpayer burden over the past 40 years, as the country’s prison population quadrupled to 2.2 million adults—or 1 in 10 in 2012.

Source: US Sentencing Commission

New Mexico’s senior Sen. Tom Udall says there is little doubt the federal criminal justice system is in need of serious reform. He supports President Barack Obama’s proposal to spend $1.1 billion to fight prescription opioid and heroin drug overdoses in New Mexico and around the country.

In fiscal year 2013 in New Mexico alone, 455 federal defendants faced drug charges, 436 received prison time and 70 were given mandatory sentences. Fewer than 10 percent of offenders were offered probation or diverted to drug treatment programs in 2014, as federal policies shifted away from community supervision in favor of incarceration.

"Drug abuse is more than an issue for law enforcement,” says Udall. “It can't be solved solely by throwing victims in jail, and that's why I have fought for resources to support prevention and drug abuse treatment as well as resources for law enforcement.”

Last year, Udall, the former New Mexico attorney general, signed on as a co-sponsor of the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015. The legislation has put conservative groups like Koch Industries on the same team as the American Civil Liberties Union, the White House, and even Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, who last April wrote, “Draconian mandatory minimum sentences can produce sentences that far outweigh the crime, especially for nonviolent drug offenders.”

While politicians who used to advocate for tough penalties turn their focus to health-centered drug treatment and prevention programs, inmates stuck with long sentences remain locked up in facilities that are 32 percent over-capacity.

Albuquerque criminal defense attorney Bob Gorence, a former federal prosecutor, said he hopes the sentence reforms recommended by the commission will prod Congress into fixing the mandatory sentence policy this year.

“It doesn’t mean legalizing drugs, but sentences up to 10 years for first-time offenses is too harsh.  It’s just not working,” Gorence said.  “The US Sentencing Commission’s recommendation was a good first step. Every little bit helps since these penalties were already too harsh, but they cannot trump what Congress has already imposed.”

US Attorney for New Mexico Damon Martinez, like Udall, has suggested that substance and drug abuse be treated as a public health issue.

“We cannot simply arrest our way out of the drug problem,” Martinez said at an opioid-abuse summit in Albuquerque last year.

As an alternative to expensive incarceration, Martinez said he is hopeful that national and local initiatives will put more defendants into drug diversion programs and help newly released inmates return to productive lives.

Morning Word: Santa Fe Considers Trimming Payroll

Councilors ask staff managers to plan for job cuts

Morning WordThursday, February 11, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Job Cuts Possible in Santa Fe
Santa Fe city councilors, who have already proposed new taxes and spending cuts to close the city’s budget gap, also want managers to consider trimming the payroll, “preferably without layoffs,” according to Daniel Chacón.

Flynn Blasts EPA
State Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn claims the US Environmental Protection Agency has attempted to downplay the extent of damages to public health and the environment following the Gold King Mine spill in August.

Cover Up
Dave McCoy at Citizen Action New Mexico thinks the New Mexico Environment Department and the EPA’s regional office in Dallas acted “criminally” when they allegedly put together a plan to use fake water well monitoring data and turned “a blind eye to the threat of potential contamination of the city’s drinking water supply by Sandia National Laboratories’ nuclear and chemical waste landfill.”

Audit Anger
A day after 10 more behavioral health providers were cleared of wrongdoing in New Mexico, US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said “someone needs to be held accountable.” On Tuesday, she called for an investigation into the controversial audits.

Space Tourism
Virgin Galactic still wants to take tourists into space sometime in 2018. Now, they’re saying they’ll be ramping up operations and moving between 100 and 120 engineers to the Spaceport for flight testing as soon as this year. Next week, Virgin plans to introduce its new spaceship in California.

Education Funding Deal Struck
Robert Nott reports that the state “may be able to avoid losing $34 million in federal funds over penalties the state Public Education Department faced for failing to invest enough of its own money in special-education programs.”
Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s Cabinet secretary of public education, said Wednesday that she struck a deal last week with the U.S. Department of Education in which the state will invest an additional $9 million a year over the next five years — $45 million in all — into special-education programs as a way to avoid future penalties.
Legislative News
Open Government: Attorney Fees Appealed
The New Mexico Appeals Court is considering whether the American Civil Liberties Union should be awarded $90,000 for attorney fees. The ACLU sued then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran in 2011 to get records she claimed proved undocumented workers were voting illegally.

New DA Goes After DV

District Attorney Jennifer Padgett says she'll stop practice of pleading down domestic violence cases

Local NewsWednesday, February 10, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

Newly appointed First Judicial District Attorney Jennifer Padgett introduced herself to Santa Fe City Council with a nod toward her history as administrative services director for the Children, Youth and Families Department, and the announcement that she’s set her sights on serious changes in magistrate court, where domestic violence cases and DUIs are handled.

“Immediately where my attention focused was not on the very high profile cases or on crimes against children... but on magistrate court,” said Padgett, who was appointed to finish out the term as head prosecutor for Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties for Angela "Spence" Pacheco after she retired in December. 

Jennifer Padgett
Turns out, she’d pulled some of the same data that SFR reviewed last fall and reported in December in “Loves Me Not: Gaps in the system mean victims live with and die from domestic violence” that indicate that as few as one in 25 of those charged with misdemeanor domestic violence are found guilty of that crime and sentenced to the mandatory counseling programs designed to prevent it from happening again. 

We reported then that of 54 felony charges that had been resolved in the court system in the previous 12 months, 30 of them were dismissed by the prosecutor or had the charges pleaded down. Offenses that lead to “great bodily harm” or involve a deadly weapon or could lead to death prompt felony charges, as do three prior convictions of misdemeanor domestic violence—a loophole many perpetrators likely slip through in those 24 or 25 cases that are dropped or pleaded down.


“In terms of magistrate court, it became common practice to dismiss battery cases down from battery against a household member to disorderly conduct,” she said. The result of that practice means the data gives a false impression about Santa Fe’s issues: “When you look at it, it looks like we don’t have a domestic violence problem.”


Padgett describe magistrate court as “training ground” for some of the least experienced attorneys, who also face some of the highest case loads. The volume of cases they handle means they move through them too quickly at times. Adding staff there will be on her list of changes.


She also noted that limited resources mean those convicted of domestic violence are on unsupervised probation, with no court oversight to ensure they comply with sentencing requirements that can include a year of counseling. Work is underway to amend that as well.


“We really need to get magistrate court right,” she said.


Mayor Javier Gonzales was quick to ask about the city’s investment in the LEAD program, which works with individuals with substance abuse problems who might be caught up in the criminal justice system,  and how that partnership may continue. 


One of the first meetings she had as she transitioned into the DA’s office was on that program, Padgett said, and she’s committed to its continuation, citing stats from Santa Fe Police Department that the program has, to date, a 100 percent success rate. Senate Bill 53 seeks a $300,000 special appropriation of funds to pay for the program’s costs, but she said if that doesn’t come through, she’ll find a way to leverage other resources to continue LEAD.

Councilor Bill Dimas, a former magistrate judge, pointed out that many times, cases are pled out before they even arrive at the judge—leaving the judge to trust prosecutors that they’ve settled on a fair and equitable sentence, so he’d hope to see the changes she described happen. He concluded by asking her about aggressively prosecuting drug trafficking cases and that, too, is on her agenda.

Padgett was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez to finish out Pacheco's term, which concludes on Dec. 31, 2016. Should she choose to pursue it, she will need to begin her campaign to be elected to the position by the June primary this year. 

Morning Word: Tax Hike Proposed in Santa Fe

New revenue and spending cuts needed to close city's budget gap

Morning WordWednesday, February 10, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Spending Cuts and Tax Hikes in Santa Fe
Facing a whopping $15 million budget deficit, the Santa Fe City Council and Mayor Javier Gonzales have voted to propose an increase in taxes and to tap revenues from the city-owned water utility.
The proposal, intended to provide city staff with a framework as they draft a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, also calls for $4 million in unspecified spending cuts and $2.5 million in increased debt collections and fees to help close the projected budget deficit.
Driver’s License Plunge
Uriel Garcia reports, “The number of state driver's licenses issued to immigrants has plunged to its lowest level since New Mexico began granting driving privileges to those living in the country illegally.” 

No Surprises in New Hampshire
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were the big winners in New Hampshire last night. Ohio Gov. John Kasich emerged from obscurity but finished a distant second in the Granite State’s Republican primary. Hillary Clinton heads to South Carolina, focused on improving her standing among young people and leading in the polls.

Motion Denied
An independent hearing officer at the Public Regulation Commission has denied a joint motion from New Energy Economy and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority to block the Public Service Company of New Mexico from charging customers the cost to purchase a nuclear power unit in Arizona.

Legislative News
  • NM House lawmakers approved a resolution to form an independent ethics commission. It still has to get through the Senate, which has killed similar measures in the past.
  • Alex Goldsmith reports that a bill that would strip convicted rapists of parental rights is advancing through the Legislature. 
  • Joey Peters reports that the Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 5-4 to kill bills by Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, that would have banned surgical abortion procedures on viable fetuses at 20 weeks of gestation or more. 
  • The House has passed a bill that would allow insurance companies to reject worker compensation claims by employees who test positive for using medical marijuana. 
  • New Mexico continues to lead the nation in opiate-related drug overdose deaths. The House Health Committee “unanimously supported a bill Tuesday that would make it easier for community health workers, family members, first responders and social services agencies to administer an antidote for opioid overdoses.” 
  • On a party line vote, the Senate Public Affairs Committee killed so-called right-to-work legislation that had the backing of business groups and was opposed by organized labor. 
  • We missed this last week, but Rep. Bill McCamley’s bill to increase the state’s Working Families Tax Credit from 10 percent of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to 20 percent was defeated. 
Treasurer Under Pressure to Resign
Diana Alba Soular reports, “Doña Ana County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to call for County Treasurer David Gutierrez to resign in the wake of a recent lawsuit that was settled against him for sexual harassment.” 

Rural Signups
Yesterday we told you that almost 55,000 New Mexicans used the state health insurance exchange to sign up for medical coverage in 2016. Now, folks are saying that more has to be done to get uninsured rural residents signed up during the next open enrollment period.

Complex Relationships
You may have been following the story of the Marietta, Ga., police officer who won the right to purchase his longtime police dog partner so they could retire together. In Santa Fe, photojournalist Mark Woodward has documented the K-9 unit patrolling Santa Fe County and today's SFR has an interesting cover story about the camaraderie between law enforcement officers and their own K-9 partners. Check out Woodward’s piece and photos this morning in the Santa Fe Reporter.

Lobos Lose
The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team is struggling on the road. Last night, they lost to Utah State, 80-72. The Lobos return to WisePies Arena on Saturday and are scheduled to play San Jose State, who they beat 83-64 last month.

MetroGlyphs

02.10.16

MetroGlyphsWednesday, February 10, 2016 by SFR
Russ Thornton is a Santa Fe local who has replaced his first passion, cooking, with a new love interest, the weekly SFR comic he's created called MetroGlyphs. Reach him at santafechef@hotmail.com


Get out of Jail

Free? Not hardly. NM bail reform debate looks at those behind bars because they can’t afford to pay bail

Local NewsWednesday, February 10, 2016 by Jeff Proctor

State lawmakers are debating whether to ask voters to change the constitution and give judges more flexibility in New Mexico’s longstanding cash bail system.

As this year’s short session winds to a close on Feb. 18, legislators at presstime were inching toward asking voters to approve a measure that would allow judges to deny bail to defendants deemed dangerous. It would prevent judges from detaining people who are not dangerous but who remain in jail only because they don’t have money.

Currently, the New Mexico Constitution allows nearly all criminal defendants the chance for freedom before trial, so long as they can afford it.

The debate in Santa Fe—which is long on ideas of fairness and public safety, but short on data about the magnitude of the problem—coincides with a larger, national discussion about the fairness of the cash bail system, where those without enough money to post bail sometimes are kept behind bars for weeks, even months, as they await trial.

Community safety weighs on New Mexico policymakers as well, after a year in which two Albuquerque-area police officers were fatally shot in the line of duty. The accused in both shootings are men with violent criminal histories.

State lawmakers are being asked to balance protecting the public with a basic tenet of the American criminal justice system: that all defendants, dangerous or not, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Supporters of Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJR1) say it’s solid on improving equal access to freedom, regardless of ability to pay, as well as public safety and rational argument. It passed the Senate early this month, and House leaders say it has a good chance there, too.

The multimillion-dollar bail bonds industry is strongly opposed to that idea and backed a different bill, which would allow for the “preventative detention” of dangerous defendants but doesn’t address people who are poor and can’t afford bail.

What’s missing from the debate are hard numbers from New Mexico’s courts and jails about how many people are currently waiting in jail for their day in court solely because they do not have money. Hard numbers also would tell policymakers how many people are likely to be affected if the constitution is changed and estimate new burdens on an already overtaxed justice system.

“Do we have all the specifics, all the data? No,” says Sen. Peter Wirth, a Democrat from Santa Fe and co-sponsor of SJR1. “I would say that about the vast majority of bills we deal with. … Sometimes you don’t really know all the way what will happen until the law is on the books.”

But the lack of information doesn’t weaken the argument for changing the constitution, Wirth says.

"We have a system in which one person with resources is treated differently than a person without resources."

“We have a system in which one person with resources is treated differently than a person without resources,” he says. “That is inherently unfair and, frankly, unconstitutional.”

Gerald Madrid, president of the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico, says he suspects poverty could be used as an “excuse” for potentially dangerous people to get out of jail, yet he conceded his contentions aren’t based on facts any more than reformers’.

A dearth of data

The Administrative Office of the Courts, an arm of the state Supreme Court, gathered information from 27 of New Mexico’s 28 county jails from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, to try to understand the scope of the challenge. Its report shows about 100,000 jail bookings during that period.

Nineteen of the 27 counties differentiated between people who were awaiting trial and those who had been sentenced to jail time by a judge. In those 19 counties, only a third of the people had been adjudicated and sentenced. But the data don’t answer whether the other two-thirds, would be eligible either for preventative detention or release because they cannot afford bonds.

Another glaring hole in the data: Bernalillo County’s massive Metropolitan Detention Center, which accounts for more than a quarter of the state’s bookings, was among the jails that did not provide a breakdown of the people locked up during that time period.

Arthur Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, says in an interview that another source, court data, “seem to indicate” that about 40 percent of all the criminal defendants who appear before New Mexico judges don’t post their bond. But that is “not a scientifically validated number,” Pepin explains, because the state’s case management system is not designed to collect information about bail bonds.

The only other state to reform its bail system through a constitutional amendment—similar to SJR1—was New Jersey, where state lawmakers commissioned a study that found nearly 39 percent of people being held in that state’s jails before trial were there only because they could not afford their bonds. Voters later passed the New Jersey amendment.

Pepin says he doesn’t expect the situation with cash bail to look much different in New Mexico. In fact, because of its pervasive poverty, New Mexico may be worse.

“But I don’t have PhDs running around studying it, because we’re poor, and we don’t have a whole lot of money,” he adds.

A fiscal impact report prepared for SJR1 estimates a reduction in New Mexico’s jail populations by about 10 percent—roughly 700 people a year—saving taxpayers about $18 million. That figure is based on studies conducted in other states and does not account for the costs of pretrial supervision for defendants who are not deemed dangerous.

The lack of data in New Mexico also obscures how many people might qualify as dangerous under the proposals, which both would allow judges to make that call.

Pepin’s best estimates for how many people would qualify as dangerous vary from 85 to 5,000 a year, based on the number of people who post bonds of more than $10,000 and the number of violent felonies committed each year.

But even before the legislative session began, SJR1 had broad support from organizations that often don’t agree. As state lawmakers vetted the idea during a series of meetings in 2015, a number of groups signed on, including the New Mexico Supreme Court, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

Keeping dangerous people behind bars has received far more attention than has the fairness of keeping low-income people locked up because they can’t pay.

But a far greater number of people would be eligible for release before trial than would be deemed dangerous and ineligible for bond, state Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels, New Mexico’s leading bail reform proponent, says in a recent interview.

Based on the experience of Washington DC ’s courts, where judges can deny bail to dangerous individuals, “we think the amendment would affect maybe 15 percent of people jailed who are dangerous, maybe less,” Daniels says.

Daniels and Pepin pointed to a number of studies from around the country—New York, Washington DC, Kentucky, Colorado and New Jersey—they say show the need for, and success of, bail reform. Some of the studies found that the bail system had a disproportionate impact on people of color. Others found that even a few days in jail can be devastating for many.

And two of the studies showed that people released from jail without the burden of a commercial bail bond were just as likely to return to court as those who had paid a bondsman to get out.

“Under our system of justice, you are presumed innocent,” Daniels says. “Yet, because of this money-for-freedom system … we ended up with something that only the US and the Philippines in the civilized world use today.”

Jeff Clayton, national policy director for the American Bail Coalition, an industry group that opposes SJR1, points to a contradictory study that found commercial bonds are more effective than other means in ensuring defendants’ return to court.

The report’s authors didn’t do a comprehensive study of New Mexico jails, “so this proposal is based on philosophy more than on information,” Clayton says.

Regardless, he adds, setting bail “is a decision that’s left to the judges now, and we should leave it like that.”

The Madrid family’s bail bond businesses along 5th Street in downtown Albuquerque are a few blocks from the city’s state and county courthouses.
Jeff Proctor
Madrid, the Albuquerque-based bondsman and president of the state bail association, is harsher in his assessment.

“Guess what? Life isn’t fair,” Madrid says. “It’s more a matter of economics, I believe. If someone goes to jail, we believe they should have the ability or the option to post a bond. If they can’t do that or don’t want to do that, then they can wait in jail till they’re seen by a judge.”

He describes an argument for release from jail on financial grounds as an “excuse” and compares it to someone demanding a free meal in a restaurant. Further, Madrid says there is no requirement in SJR1 to verify that people can’t afford a bond.

“It just encourages lawlessness,” Madrid says. “These people committing crimes know that all they have to do is say they’re poor.”

Financial impacts on the industry would be swift and certain if voters approve SJR1, Madrid said. That forms the basis for part of his opposition.

“Well, of course we are” going to lose money, he said. “And that is true. But it’s not just the money. It’s the service we provide and all of the things that we do that we don’t get paid for.”




This story was published by New Mexico In Depth as part of its “Justice Project.” Read more at nmindepth.com


Pop Quiz

District 1

Local NewsWednesday, February 10, 2016 by SFR

As the March 1 municipal election draws near, SFR is bringing back an old favorite—our tradition of calling up candidates and testing their knowledge about the office they seek. The rules for Pop Quiz are as follows: We record the entire conversation and report the answers verbatim. No research allowed, and if they call back later, too bad. These four candidates for Santa Fe City Council District 1 are in the only contested council race. Three people are running unopposed for the other seats. To see who answered correctly, or came closest, check out the answer key below. Watch for the city judge candidates next week.

The Questions

  1. What line item takes the biggest portion of the city budget?
  2. How much is the total gross receipts tax rate in the city of Santa Fe? And does the council have legal authority to increase it?
  3. What are the sources of the city’s drinking water supply?
  4. What is the living wage, and is it set to change any time soon?
  5. What are the steps for getting a new housing development approved?


Frank Montaño
,
a former city councilor and former school board member

1. Are you talking all funds? I think that would be personnel services.

2. It’s 8 point … Hmm, I don’t remember the last percentages, but it’s better than 8 percent. Yes, they do.

3. The city’s drinking water supply includes the reservoirs out at the Santa Fe Canyon, wells within the city limits, wells and a surface collection system on the Rio Grande.

4. The living wage is $10 and … Oh, I can’t remember the cents, but it’s something like $10.80, and it’s due to go up a few more cents. It’s going to be somewhere in the $10.90 range.

5. A new housing development, you go through the planning commission—well, first you apply. Then you go through the planning commission; if it’s approved by the planning commission, you’re good to go. If there’s an appeal, you go before city council.



Kathryn P Kennedy,
partner at Skylight Santa Fe

1. Which line item takes the biggest—are you talking about in terms of revenue or expense?

SFR: Expenses.

I actually don’t think I know the answer to that. We just got access to the budget information just like five days ago, so we’re just trying to filter through it right now. That’s the truth. We just got the budget information from Oscar; all the candidates got the budget information at the same time. So that was cool.

2. It’s over 8 percent. Yes.

3. Well, the largest source is the Santa Fe Watershed, and the biggest component of that is snowmelt.

4. The living wage right now I believe is $10.66, and is it set to change, in the immediate future? No. … I think it’s set to go up, but it’s currently at $10.66.

5. A developer takes a plan, it usually goes through, hopefully there’s neighborhood meetings, and it goes through planning commission, and then from planning commission, it goes through the council, and in between those steps, it can go back and forth to the developer for redesign or for neighborhood negotiations. There’s certainly a negotiation process before it reaches the council level, and even at that point, council can send it back and offer recommendations.



Marie Campos
,
founder of Native Hispanic Institute and artist

1. My answer is, is that I did not … they had a finance meeting where they went over all of these things, and I was invited, but then I wasn’t told, then it wasn’t followed up, and I didn’t get to sit down with the finance director and the rest of everybody else because I was not notified of the date and time. So I, I wouldn’t even want to guess that. I could guess, but I wouldn’t; it would just be a guess. So that’s my answer.

2. I don’t even know. I know the gross receipts combined tax of the state, you know on the gross receipts. It’s like 3.2 or something like that. Yes, they were given that under the state.

3. That’s like, the sources of the drinking water are like, oh gosh. This is … Wow. Let me think about that for a minute, let me think of the names. I keep thinking … oh gosh. I feel like a dummy. Where does it come from? I think part of it comes from the Santa Fe River, like the water surface I think, and then the Rio Grande. I guess, I don’t know. I think if I remember right, it’s treated in the Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant—there’s a lot of them actually. There’s the Buckman Wells, is that right? And then, I don’t know, I think there are some storage tanks. I’m thinking of the BDD treatment plant, Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant, I guess, city wells, Buckman.

4. It is set to change. And it’s $10.91, and I think it changes in March, March 1. I guess that’s $10.91 it’ll change to in March.

5. Well, I guess it could go through a lot of things. It starts with presenting a plan and then early notification—early neighborhood notification, then it goes through the committees, and then it has to get approved by those committees, and then it goes through council, and then any adjustments are made, and it might have to go through committees. It goes through the early notification, then through committees, then it goes to the council, then there’s public hearings and all of that in each one. Then if it gets approved in council, it moves forward.



Renee Villarreal,

former planning commission member, current director of programs and community outreach for New Mexico Community Foundation 

1. Personnel.

2. The total gross receipts tax rate is 8.33 percent. Yes.

3. The Buckman Diversion and, um, groundwater supply.

4. It is set to change in the next, let’s see, in the next couple months, I believe, and it’s set to go up to $10.90, I believe, a little below $11.

5. The developer would have to meet with land use staff to look at their conceptual plan and what they’re thinking in the area they’re thinking, and then see if it meets basic codes with their pre-development plan, and that takes a few months. So after they work out the details for making sure that it meets basic codes, then it’ll go on to, depending on the development, it’ll go on to the planning commission. Once the staff meets and understands what the developer wants to do, they decide if they make a recommendation or denial to the planning commission, and the planning commission will hear the development plan or at least the pre-development plan and review on the code requirements, and if it complies with the land use code, and also what staff recommends or doesn’t recommend, and it’s any adjustments they need to make or changes, and depending on the type of development, it usually goes on to the city council with the recommendation of either approval or denial, and the city will have to make a decision if the plan meets land use chapter 14 code requirements and is compatible with the city based on those code requirements.


Editor's note: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong current job for Villarreal. 

K-9

On the night shift with two cops: a woman and her dog

FeaturesWednesday, February 10, 2016 by Mark Woodward

It’s sometimes just easier talking to the dog. At the end of a shift, as she walks back into the building from the parking lot, Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Vanessa Barnett often hears “What’s up, Jackson?” It’s not her nickname. Her fellow officers’ eyes are fixed closer to floor, where they land on Jackson, a striking 80-pound longhaired German shepherd who was born five years ago and is the four-legged member of the department’s single K-9 team.

Jackson is trained in patrol and narcotics and works with just one person, Barnett. Though he lives with another German shepherd at home, unlike most other dogs in Santa Fe, when his harness goes on, he snaps to and heads out to work.

Time and again, as I’ve travelled across the country during the last nine months, documenting K-9 units, this is a scene that’s played out. People find it much easier to talk to the animals than each other. As a coarsened, seasoned deputy crouches down to greet a peer’s K-9 at the start of a shift, I sense something much more significant, perhaps directed at someone else.

Santa Fe County Deputy Vanessa Barnett looks out over her K-9 partner, Deputy Jackson, lit up by the searchlight from their vehicle, Santa Fe 61, during a quiet moment on the night shift.
Mark Woodward

Barnett’s night starts at a briefing with the other sheriff deputies, where they talk about events that occurred in the day and that might play out into their evening. It’s 10 pm, the beginning of the graveyard shift, and I trail her through the dark lot to a new Ford SUV. This is Santa Fe 61, a vehicle specially equipped for Barnett and Jackson. Its back doors open automatically with the touch of a button on Barnett’s belt, at which point Jackson is trained to jump out and respond to her command. Next to the first aid kit that all officers carry for human medical needs, there’s a second kit with medical supplies for canines. The vehicle is equipped with an emergency temperature system; if the temperature rises past a certain level with Jackson inside, Santa 61’s alarms and sirens go off, notifying Barnett immediately. Also onboard is a selection of Jackson’s favorite toys.

Barnett and Jackson are very much sheriff deputies before they are exclusively a K-9 team. All kinds of things happen on these shifts, all over the 2,000 square miles of the county. As well as running the only K-9 unit in Santa Fe, Barnett is also only one of two women in the Sheriff’s Department, and at 5'4" and around 100 pounds, she has big shoes to fill.

Barnett patrols her “zone” south and west of the Santa Fe City Limits on the evening that I ride along. The Pojoaque native knows all the patrol zones well; she’s been with the department for 11 years. But even if she’s in Madrid, when the call comes for help from the K-9 unit near Chimayó, she gets there.

Jackson was trained as pup in Schutzhund, the discipline for working dogs required for police-type work. Born in a German kennel called Zwinger vom Waldhäuser Schloss, he’s from a strong line of police and protection dogs. Jackson has been busy in Santa Fe, seizing drugs, detaining suspects and finding hidden perpetrators. He helped last year when a man on an inmate work crew from the state pen escaped custody on Cerrillos Road. When it’s really hot in July, he is “rewarded” with buckets of water being poured over him.

Barnett and Jackson are the only K-9 unit in the county, and she’s one of just three female K-9 handlers in the state.
Mark Woodward

In April 2013, a private donor gave Jackson a bulletproof vest. He didn’t wear one before that because of budget restrictions. A bulletproof vest for a K-9 can cost over $1,000. Only when a situation feels hostile does Barnett strap Jackson into the vest, to then go face the situation together.

Their strength as a unit is in each other. They are partners. From cuddling on the couch together, to finding heroin in a vehicle, to biting down on a suspect, it seems about as rich and complex as a relationship can get.

“He found a guy that almost ran over a Santa Fe PD detective. He was a burglary suspect, he fled into some houses, and we were doing a yard to yard search, and Jackson kept pulling,” Barnett tells me as she bounces along a back road behind the wheel of Santa Fe 61. “This was early on when, at first, I didn’t even know Jackson that well, not as well as I know him now. And he had pulled us into this yard and into this shed. And it had this big huge carpet over the top. I then sent in some guys that were on my search team. And sure enough, there was some guy, hiding wrapped up in a tent. And he was right there. He was telling me that somebody was there. That was a big moment for me.”

Getting Jackson and the K-9 unit up and running was quite a project. “When the last dog here retired in 2005, the handler soon ended up retiring himself, and then we didn’t have any dogs. I had wanted to do it, and I said to myself, You know what? Let me just ask them,” she says. “I wrote a memo to the sheriff that I wanted to start a K-9 program. They said, ‘Absolutely—but we don’t have any money in the budget.’”

Barnett didn’t give up. She received a donation from a citizen for whom she had been able to recover some property stolen in a burglary. Three years later, in 2012, after a lot of perseverance and a whole lot of patience, budgeting was finally approved for a K-9 unit. Barnett says she is grateful to the sheriff and everyone else who helped her establish the program.

“We got our dog,” Barnett says, smiling. “I was so happy. They called me up and said, ‘You’re going to K-9 School.’ I was so excited. I think it means more when you actually start something from nothing.”

Barnett became a deputy at the age of 21, after having worked as an emergency dispatcher.

"They called me up and said, ‘You’re going to K-9 School.’ I was so excited. I think it means more when you actually start something from nothing."

“I kind of knew a little bit—not a lot. When I first started working, I knew a lot of them looked at me like, ‘What’s this little girl going to do?’ … So I had a lot to prove, that I knew what I was doing, that I wasn’t afraid to get into anything. And I did. I jumped every single call that I could. I went to every in-progress thing. A lot of the times, I just had to handle stuff by myself, and you gain respect from these guys. They’re like, ‘Wow, she can kind of handle herself,’ and you just get a reputation: ‘Don’t let her size fool you, she’s …” Barnett trails off.

I suggest, “She’ll kick your ass,” and she laughs, saying, “Exactly.”

She applied the same determination to the K-9 training, and now, at 32, she’s one of just three female handlers in New Mexico’s law enforcement agencies. “I had to prove to these K-9 trainers that I was able to do it. And something as simple as picking up an 80-pound dog, carrying him on your back up a flimsy ladder up to an attic, and then bringing him back down the same way, you know—that gained a lot of respect,” she says.

Even so, Barnett lives a bit in Jackson’s shadow. And she’s OK with that. She laughs as she talks about catching a burglar in the act, detaining him and bringing him into custody without the assistance of other deputies. The next day, her superior praised Jackson’s courage, although he was not involved in the detaining and, in fact, had remained in the vehicle during the event.

Jackson runs circles around Barnett. Theirs is a strong partnership.
Mark Woodward

Barnett and Jackson completed their first Basic Handler School Certification after a six-week program with former Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Sheldahl, who runs K-9 Services in Edgewood. An additional certification test is required for both handler and K-9 every year.

“Training is constant for the rest the dog’s working life,” Barnett says. “We train almost eight hours every week, and this needs to continue for the rest of his working life.”

Barnett and Jackson work together five days a week, primarily on graveyard shifts, from 10 pm to 6 am. It’s a slow night tonight. Jackson is quiet in the back of Santa Fe 61.

Deputy Vanessa Barnett and another sheriff’s deputy, with his hand on his pistol, question a teenager found sleeping on a cold night in his broken-down truck.
We find a truck on the side of a dirt road on the Southside of town. A teenage boy is inside truck, fast asleep. He’s been kicked out of the house, and his truck’s broken down. He can’t stay, so Barnett calls another deputy to take him to a friend’s house for the night. The other deputy arrives: a big, old-school dude. They stand right by the driver’s door while the kid gathers his things and gets out of the vehicle, lights flashing, painting the scene. Both deputies have hands on their pistols. I zoom my camera in and focus in on this tense moment. The kid is wearing a Cardinals beanie and a blue flannel shirt. He looks like he’s freezing. As soon as he exits the vehicle, the hands come off the pistols.

I film the reflection of the side mirror as the kid walks past Santa Fe 61 and climbs into the other deputy’s vehicle. Jackson barks. And continues to bark, until Barnett is back in the driver’s seat.

No doubt, at the start of the next shift, the other deputies will ask Barnett how Jackson’s last shift was and how he’s doing.

I wonder if the reason they focus on Jackson more than Barnett is it’s the path of least resistance. Like Barnett, it could be one of them on that ladder, not knowing what, or who, may be waiting at the top. The kid in the truck might have a gun. He might get a shot off first. To speak to Barnett is to speak to themselves. To speak to the proximity of their own mortality. This is too much to face directly. Not today. Not now. At least not every day.

Still, through these conversations directed at dogs, I hear vulnerability, relief, the camaraderie of complex relationships. Sometimes, it’s just easier talking to the dog.

Aside from the German Shepherd air-freshener, Santa Fe 61 has other features that make it equipped for the K-9, including a dog first-aid kit and some of Jackson’s favorite toys.
Mark Woodward

 

Small Bites

Eat at Bouche and #SFRfoodies

Small BitesWednesday, February 10, 2016 by SFR
Joy Godfrey

Bouche

Bouche feels like a place worth coming home to stay. Pull up a seat on their patio to enjoy dinner with a sunset-strewn sky over the top of their walled garden, or take a table indoors, among the hardwood floors and fireplace that recall a country coziness without overstating the point. Chef Charles Dale strolls the tables to check in on those enjoying a flawless and approachable menu. Make no mistake—while the wine list may be four pages (and wait staff happy to counsel you through those difficult choices) and the dinner menu a quarter-page, the emphasis is on well-considered food that draws from local and sustainable choices and the very best of French cuisine. Approachably casual black mussels in white wine and red chile sauce ($16/$26) are worth their weight in tiny forks—and, naturally, sneaking a dip of the housemade bread into. A mountain of truffle frites ($7/$9) dense with umami makes good company. Finish off with crème brûlée or the tart of the evening, which on our visit was built around all the natural sweetness of Colorado peaches.

-Elizabeth Miller

451 W Alameda St., 982-6297
Dinner Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-9:30 pm
bouchebistro.com


#SFRfoodies

These pictures are so sweet they make your teeth hurt. If you’re sweet on food photos, share them on Instagram using #SFRfoodies.



Leather Bound

Jonny Leather thinks about you guys all the time

Music FeaturesWednesday, February 10, 2016 by Alex De Vore

You guys want to know what I like? I like when someone from another town moves here with an unbiased perspective on our music scene. Obviously—and it’s been said before—we live in a bubble, and we all know each other. A fresh perspective never hurts. I also like it when people agree with me about how a lot of people around here are doing it wrong. That’s why I went out for coffee with this guy Jonny Leather. He’s only been here about a year, by way of NYC, but some of you might know him already. He’s a photographer, a music blogger (meccalecca.com) and a freelance production manager for a number of New York-based magazines, but more importantly, he’s a ravenous consumer of music both live and recorded and isn’t sick of your shit (yet), so I found myself curious about what his deal is and what he thinks about what we’re layin’ down here. These are some of his thoughts.

There’s this whole idea that things are going on in Santa Fe, but they’re almost a secret.
“The house show, for example. Everything seems off the radar, and I don’t know if that’s out of exclusivity or necessity. It’s hard for DIY venues to promote because they aren’t official. I have felt welcomed here, there’s just not a lot to grasp onto.”

It’s a culture shock, both good and bad.
“In New York, I had places to book shows and went to a ton and photographed them. Coming here, I felt like there’s hardly anyone covering things. In New York, I had to ask myself what was worth writing about, because there are obviously better writers than me and people with more time to write. … Obviously, you guys cover music, but it’s hard to have one person trying to cover an entire city’s music [Author’s note: Amen, brother.]. I’ve gone from over-stimulation, which at a certain point was kind of crushing, to under-stimulation. I’m still getting used to that if you get one good show in a week, that’s a good week, a really good week. There was a whole month not that long ago where there was nothing I was excited about.”

There’s a weird divide.
“I’ve talked to some people who are booking around town about the idea that when a touring act comes through, a local needs to be on that bill. When I first moved here, I think it was a member of Thieves & Gypsys who pointed out the divide between local and touring acts, which is weird because for a scene on this level, it makes perfect sense to have locals. The local people don’t want to go to touring band shows, so we don’t get bigger shows; the best way to promote is to get the people looking for events—the people who live here—involved.”

Who cares what journalists say?
“Having locals open for mid or big-level touring bands can sometimes mean a shout-out online for these bands. Journalists are creating content; these bands don’t have to say anything, but it can change a smaller band’s life.”

You need variation.
“When you book five metal bands that sound similar on the same bill, that’s disrespecting the fans in thinking they only like that particular kind of music and couldn’t possibly like something else. Swans had soft folk artists open for them, and juxtaposition like that can be excellent.”

There aren’t enough young people to begin with, and there are so many distractions.
“Young people … it’s such a small group, and there are so many ways to get distracted, but a lot of the time, it just takes one person. It goes in waves, but if one person gets something going, the wave starts.”

A lot of what’s becoming really hip and popular is made on computers.
“It’s disengages from the realm of people interacting by playing instruments together, and it doesn’t seem to fit with performing live well. It’s introverted. DJ music is not that engaging to me.”

Storming the Beaches with Logos in Hand has been one of my favorites.
“I’ve been way into GRY GRDNS. And even though I’m thinking I’ve passed my indie/poppy music thing, Thieves & Gypsys are so good.”


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