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Lobbying Data Needs Fix

Las Cruces state representative introduces bill to require more lobbying transparency

Local NewsSaturday, January 31, 2015 by Justin Horwath
Navigate to the lobbying reports in the secretary of state's online campaign finance disclosure database, and the website will tell viewers that, in 2014, lobbyists spent $1.6 million on food, drinks, gifts and parties for the officials New Mexicans elected to create state laws. 

Yet the state admits that's the wrong figure.

According to a spreadsheet provided by the secretary of state's office in response to a public records request, lobbyists actually spent $877,974 in 2014. 

Ken Ortiz, chief of staff to Secretary of State Dianna Duran, says officials have been working with the vendor to fix the discrepancy.

That's just the tip of New Mexico's disclosure problems when it comes to lobbying.

Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, has introduced a bill that would broadly expand reporting requirements for both lobbyists and the secretary of state's office that oversees them.

For instance, the bill would require Duran's office to keep lobbying reports "archived and accessible" on its disclosure website for a period of ten years, instead of the required two years. 

Accessible, it says, means "that all records are easily searchable, sortable and downloadable by the public."

That's still not the case, and why government transparency advocates who support the bill say the legislature will need to appropriate more taxpayer money toward the task. No fiscal impact report on just how much money that might take has been made public yet.

Steinborn tells SFR he hopes the bill will be heard in committee next week. He's uncertain about how Republicans, who now control the House, will react to the measure.

This Weekend

Superbowl Sunday and more!

Weekend PicksFriday, January 30, 2015 by SFR

Modernism in New Mexico Lecture

Spend your evening learning about New Mexican artwork. Joesph Traugott leads a talk a featuring artists in the recently opened exhibit. Reservations required. For more information see http://www.okeeffemuseum.org

More Info >>

Photo Eye Group Show

The best of gallery photography shines with a group show of nearly 20 artists. Through Feb. 28

More Info >>


Coffee Talk

Join other creative minds for a talk on design, presented by AIGA New Mexico.

More Info >>

Flavors of Argentina

Chef Juan Bochenski presents a special 3-course meal as part of the restaurant's guest chef pop-ups. Call for reservations.

More Info >>


Tapestry, Off the Wall

Kristin Carlsen Rowley’s three-dimensional works are revolutionary. Through Feb. 21

More Info >>

Superbowl Sunday at the Mine Shaft

Come watch the big game on a heated patio with specials on appetizers and drinks.

More Info >>




Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Morning Word: SunZia Transmission Line Halted

A winter snow storm takes aim at New Mexico

Morning WordFriday, January 30, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Ticked off that he wasn't invited to attend the US Interior Department's SunZia transmission line announcement last Saturday, the state land commissioner has put the brakes on the project. He wants his office to take a second look at agreements that could impact state trust land.

It's Friday, January 30, 2015.

New Mexico mountains could get up to a foot of new snow over the next few days.
“This is going to be a great event,” National Weather Service meteorologist Kerry Jones predicted late Thursday morning. “This is what we want. These kinds of systems cause a little inconvenience for travel, but good, deep snow is just what the ski resorts and watersheds need.” 
Read more at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Check closings at KOB.com

Aubrey Dunn, the new Commissioner of Public Lands, has halted work on the new SunZia transmission line project, which will help put renewable energy on the grid, for 60 days. The US Interior Department Secretary had just approved the project last Saturday.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Alamogordo will move forward with a desalination plant after financial and safety concerns were raised about building it on an old landfill.

Read more here. 

The US Senate passed legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline, but Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, voted against it. He says oil from tar sands is not the right choice to help meet future energy needs.
"Instead of focusing on the past, which the Keystone XL Pipeline represents, we need to look to the future of clean energy technologies and the domestic jobs they support. Our national energy policy should be focused on two fundamental principles, fewer imports and cleaner fuels. Developing Canada’s tar sands flunks both these tests. My position against tar sand development is about taking the science of climate change and risk analysis seriously, and that the smarter investments are in the low-carbon and sustainable fuels of the future.” 
Read it at the Los Alamos Daily Post.

A Luna County bus driver is getting credit for saving a man who fell on tracks in Deming from being run over by a train on Tuesday.

Read about his heroic efforts at the Deming Highlight. 

Helium balloonists Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev have officially broken the distance record with their trans-Pacific Ocean flight.
The team is also looking to break a flight duration record of 137 hours, known in the ballooning community as the "holy grail" of ballooning achievements. 
Still aloft, the Two Eagles balloon is expected to land sometime on Saturday after a safe landing spot is located-perhaps in Northern California. 

Read more at KOAT. 

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has released the controversial New Mexico behavioral health care provider audit. The report, as you may have expected, raises a lot of questions.
For instance, the document does not offer conclusive evidence that there is probable cause to believe the organizations committed Medicaid fraud. 
Read it at New Mexico In Depth. 

Several providers mentioned in the audit have already been cleared of wrongdoing and the AG says his office will start its review of two Las Cruces organizations soon.
Roque Garcia, CEO of Southwest Counseling Center, said Thursday was the first time he'd seen the full audit. He said he was shocked because he saw many inaccuracies in the report. He also said the findings identified don't merit the dramatic action taken against local behavioral health providers two years ago. 
Read it at the Las Cruces. 

Susan Boe, the executive director of New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, applauded the AG’s transparency.

Read more online. 

Another day and another big national story about the Albuquerque Police Department's use of lethal force.

Read more at the Rolling Stone. 

A special prosecutor has decided not to pursue charges against two Santa Fe police officers involved shooting a 26-year-old motorist in 2013.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Torrance County Manager Joy Ansley will keep her job despite a commissioner's effort to fire her after a state audit revealed she cut corners with a favored construction contractor.

More from the Mountain view Telegraph. 

Right-to-work legislation, a top priority of the new Republican controlled state House, passed its first hurdle on Thursday after a fivehour House Business and Employment Committee meeting in Santa Fe.

Read more at New Mexico Political Report. 

Journalist Margaret Wright says emotions "boiled over" during a hearing to repeal driver's licenses. 

Read it at New Mexico Political Report. 

Meow Wolf Immersive Art Space Is Coming

Collective unveils plans for old Silva Lanes

Art FeaturesFriday, January 30, 2015 by Enrique Limón

For the first time since 2009, the parking lot at the defunct bowling alley located at 1352 Rufina Circle showed life and inside, attendees to a press conference admired the gutted area where lanes used to reside, sipped on coffee and took in the frozen in time décor—Linoleum, neon-flecked carpet and glass block galore.

As SFR and other outlets reported earlier this month, Game of Thrones mastermind George RR Martin purchased the old Silva Lanes space with the intention of leasing it to local arts production collaborative Meow Wolf.

Following a planned $2.7 million renovation, the almost 33,000-square-foot space will play host to 19 artists studios, a “classic” gallery space, a learning center programmed by ARTsmart and named in memory of MW member David Loughridge, a retail shop and outdoor green areas that the collective hopes will attract local food carts.


The art complex’s crown jewel is set to be a permanent, immersive installation in the form of an interactive Victorian house dubbed House of Eternal Return, a nod to 2011’s The Due Return. Representatives from City Hall and beyond attended the announcement.

“We actually really wanna listen to George speak for sure, so we’re gonna keep this a little bit brief,” Mayor Javier Gonzales said before thanking Meow Wolf members for getting involved in his 2014 election campaign. “When I first heard about ‘Meow Wolf’ it was hard for me to understand the name, understand what it meant, who these people were. But they took a chance on me—they took a big chance,” Gonzales said.

He then highlighted what the revamped mixed-use space represents for the city.

“For 400 years, we’ve celebrated multiple cultures and we’re excited about what makes us unique and authentic, but unless we’re true to nurturing that brand—and making sure that we continue to be a place for artists to thrive and to innovate and to be able to showcase to the world that Santa Fe continues to be a place where incredible art is form is created—we’re gonna lose our identity,” Gonzales remarked. “Today is very much about the identity of Santa Fe…because what you are seeing here today is a collaborative between young artists who decided that not only want to invest in our community [but also] they want to be entrepreneurs.”

Martin, revered by Gonzales as an “international pop star” and by Meow Wolf’s Vince Kadlubek as “one of the coolest people I’ve ever met,” then took the mic.

GRRM recalled with a laugh his response when the project was first presented to him. “I’m not sure that I want to buy a bowling alley, Vince. One, I’m not that really into bowling and it’s a dead bowling alley; obviously other people weren’t that into it either.”

After a tour of the “astonishing space” however, he was sold. “The size of it is gigantic, and I can see all sorts of possibilities here,” Martin mused.

Ever the visionary, the Santa Fe-based author opened up to SFR last month on his plans to convert the former Desert Academy on Camino Alire into artist studios. Two years ago, he revived the single-screen Jean Cocteau Cinema and delivered on his promise of returning it to its former standing in the community.

Martin recounted the great emotion he felt when he flipped the switch and saw the arthouse’s marquee light up for the first time in almost a decade. The anecdote seemed to echo the “What is dead may never die” ethos of his Thrones universe.

“It gave me a great feeling to see something come alive that had been dead for so long; that had been sitting there for seven years in the darkness with a ‘For sale or lease’ sign on it, and I had the same feeling when I came down here.”

Per Martin’s request, the vintage bowling-pin-shaped sign that stood over Silva Lanes will not only stay, but will be prominently featured in the new space’s design, at the hands of local firm Autotroph.

Meow Wolf’s Sean Di Ianni expressed the collective’s burning desire to acquire a permanent space in Santa Fe alongside an “amazing network of super-talented makers, artists and weirdos.”

Talking about “the core” of the new art hub, House of Eternal Return, Di Ianni advanced it will sprawl over 14,000 square-foot space and offer an “explorable, immersive, fantastical world.”

Kadlubek established the attraction would be a for-profit venture with an additional construction price tag of $1 million to be funded via private loans and crowdfunding. 



“The early believers really are really aligned with the spirit of the project, and they see that we’ve done our due diligence to look at the business side,” Kadlubek said.

Projected price of admission to the attraction, he estimated, would be $15 for adults and $8 for children, with discounts for locals and the option of acquiring yearly family passes for $175. Meow Wolf has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the complex’s efforts. As of press time, the initiative had reached $8,124 of its initial $100,000 goal.



Audit Public at Last

New Mexico attorney general releases behavioral health audit

Local NewsThursday, January 29, 2015 by Joey Peters

Nearly two years after its completion, Attorney General Hector Balderas has made public most of a controversial audit that led to the state's shutdown and takeover of 15 behavioral health providers. 

The audit, conducted by Boston-based Public Consulting Group through a contract with the state Human Resources Department, found $36 million of Medicaid over-billings between the 15 New Mexico-based providers. In June 2013, just three days after PCG completed the report, HSD's then-Secretary Sidonie Squier told the providers that she had no choice but to cut all their Medicaid funding. 

That's when Arizona-based companies moved in to take over services.

Squier also gave the audit to then-Attorney General Gary King, with both officials declining to allow the public to review it. Balderas, then state auditor, also wouldn't disclose the audit at the time. 

The refusal to release the audit led to public outcry and claims that the providers didn't receive due process. New Mexico In Depth and the Foundation for Open Government have been battling for the audit's release in court. 

At a press conference today, Balderas said he was releasing the audit and making attempts to speed up his office's investigation into the alleged fraud of the 15 providers. The report was redacted to remove some names and dates of services.

"We balanced public disclosure of the report and also redacted what we thought was important," Balderas said. 

King's office cleared two providers of wrongdoing before Balderas took the reins this year. Balderas said a third investigation has been completed and will be announced in the coming weeks, four more are ongoing and eight haven't yet begun. 

"This process has taken too long and citizens deserve better at this point," he said. 

Balderas' office is also currently asking the state legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez for $1 million for his office to speed up the investigation. If he gets the money, he says it will speed up the timeline of the investigation from the original timeline of five-and-a-half to six years down to six to eight months. 

"Ultimately, the attorney general's office needs to be more timely in its investigations," he said.

Meanwhile, his office released the status of its investigation into each provider shortly after the press conference:

1. Border Area Mental Health Services – not begun
2. Counseling Associates – not begun
3. Easter Seals - completed
4. Families & Youth Inc. (or FYI) – in progress
5. Hogares- in progress
6. Partners in Wellness – not begun
7. Pathways – not begun
8. Presbyterian Medical Services – not begun
9. Service Organization for Youth (SOY) - completed
10.  Southern New Mexico Human Development – not begun
11.  Southwest Counseling Center – in progress
12.  Teambuilders – not begun
13.  The Counseling Center - completed
14.  Valencia Counseling Services  - in progress
15.  YDI – not begun

SFR will provide further coverage later today dissecting the audit. In the meantime, read the entire 339-page document below:

Morning Word: Nuclear Sites Face More Fines

New storm will bring lots of snow

Morning WordThursday, January 29, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Already hit with $54.3 million in fines, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant could see even steeper penalties assessed by the New Mexico Environment Department. That, plus we have a roundup of news stories from around the state.

It's Thursday, January 29, 2015.

Winter is back and the weather folks suggest there’s going to be lots of rain and snow with this one. The mountains and higher elevations could get more than a foot of snow between now and Saturday night.

Check the forecast here. 


Already facing steep fines, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant could get slapped with additional penalties soon.

Read why at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Small town businesses are being warned that their computers, just like other large firms, can be attacked by hackers.
Portales does not look any different to a hacker than the Department of Defense. Hackers are looking for easy marks. Small businesses have some assets, and they’re not protecting themselves. 
Information Technology manager Richard Bradfute says more than 50 percent of small and medium-sized businesses have been compromised by hackers at some point.

Read more at the Portales News Tribune. 

Ruidoso Public School's officials are considering replacing punishment with restorative justice programs to hold teen alcohol and substance offenders accountable.

Read more at the Ruidoso News. 

UNM Daily Lobo journalist Mateo Rocha takes a look at the importance of acequias to the state's water system.

Read more online.

The Bureau of Land Management's office in Farmington is getting close to amending its oil and gas resource management plan for the San Juan Basin. An increase in fracturing and horizontal drilling technology prompted the agency to amend its 2003 plan.

Read more at the Farmington Daily Times. 

After two decades, a popular equine therapy program in Northern New Mexico is coming to an end. The Ride to Pride Horsemanship School and Therapy Center had difficulty securing behavioral health funds.

Read more at the Las Vegas Optic. 

Philmont Scout Ranch has hired a new facilities superintendent.
Dave Kenneke's duties include overseeing the maintenance of all 600 buildings and utilities on Philmont's approximately 140k acre property and 110,000 acres of leased property, as well as managing an operating budget of approximately $3.5 million a year. 
Read more at the Sangre de Christo Chronicle. 

High school students in Portales who have no plans to attend college could get more vocation program choices next year to prepare them for work.

Read more at the Portales News-Tribune. 

The Albuquerque Public Schools board executive committee believes Kathy Korte violated its code of ethics when she reprimanded a district employee in an email. 

Read more at the ABQ Journal.

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell plans to introduce legislation to keep New Mexico on daylight-savings time year round. He told Dan Boyd changing the clock is an “unnecessary inconvenience.”

Read it at the Albuquerque Journal.

Only 51 days left in the 2015 Legislature. The Santa Fe New Mexican posted a roundup from yesterday. 

Read it online here. 

Banking Study Clears Council amid Budget Concerns

Ron Trujillo blasts city for wasting money on studies

Local NewsWednesday, January 28, 2015 by Justin Horwath

Before City Council approved the award of a $50,000 contract to a private company to study the feasibility of a public bank in Santa Fe late Wednesday, District 4 Councilor Ron Trujillo had something to say.

"Over the years, we pass $50,000 here, $50,000 here, $100,000 here," he said, head shaking, right hand gesturing. "And I guess I'm getting tired that we're spending all this taxpayer money on studies" that are only going to conclude "that it's going to take a million dollars to do this, this much time..." 

Trujillo has also recently been an outspoken opponent of the city's expenditure for another $50,000-project, an incentive paid to the TV show The Bachelor to shoot in Santa Fe. "Years and years go by," once a study is funded, "and I still don't see nothing happen," he continued. 

"The city is in a deficit right now," he said, explaining why he was going to vote against the resolution .

His pleas for fiscal restraint fell on deaf ears, with the exception of District 2 Councilor Bill Dimas, who joined Trujillo in voting against the contract with Building Solutions LLC that pays the consulting firm in $5,000 and $10,000 increments after it completes various directives."

Mayor Javier Gonzales, an New Mexico State University regent, recused himself from the discussion because Building Solutions plans to use the Arrowhead Center, a consulting arm of NMSU. District 1 Councilor Patti Bushee was absent from the meeting.

District 3 Councilor Carmichael Dominguez noted that the $50,000 would come from a "relatively restricted" economic development fund that the city already allocated for the current fiscal year. "We’re not increasing the deficit that exists year to year," he said, an assertion affirmed by city Manager Brian Snyder.

"And I think it’s money well spent," he added. "I’m looking for opportunities like this to get rid of things like predatory lending."


"I think that’s just going to further advance the intent of being a home rule city and that’s to help us realize our own future," added District 2 Councilor Joseph Maestas.


Councilors Maestas, Dominguez, Peter Ives, Signe Lindell, Chris Rivera voted to fund the study.


In the evening session, which starts out with comments to the council from members of the public, Gloria Mendoza echoed Trujillo's concerns about the banking contract. "You could have used the $50,000 to throw into the homeless shelter that you’re trying to close down," she said, with a tone of incredulity. "Public banking?"


"$50,000?" she added. "$50,000 to help people who are addicted to heroin. Meth. I don’t like my tax dollars going to studies."


Earlier, councilors passed a resolution that calls on city staff to coordinate with Santa Fe County to discuss how the two entities could pursue a publicly owned utility.


Building Solutions, LLC.

ACLU Defending Former ISC Director

Group says lawsuit by Interstate Commission against Norman Gaume is illegal and retaliatory

Local NewsThursday, January 29, 2015 by Joey Peters

The New Mexico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is coming to the legal defense of an activist who accused the Interstate Stream Commission of violating the Open Meetings Act.

ALCU lawyers argue that the state is trying to chill public participation by going after Norman Gaume.

Gaume, who also formerly served as director of the commission, says the commission didn't grant appropriate notice of or access to its subcommittee meetings on the controversial diversion of the Gila River. He filed a court action against the commission in October and secured a temporary restraining order halting deliberations on the matter. But by November, a different Santa Fe District judge lifted the order, allowing decisions on the project to go forward.

Now the commission says Gaume should have to pay more than $100,000 in damages that they claim were caused by his restraining order. 

The ACLU, however, says the court action he filed and its consequences are "constitutionally protected speech" and is prepared to launch a defense that the state is attempting what's knows as a retaliatory SLAPP suit, for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation—an action the state legislature made illegal in 2001.

“People in our country have a fundamental right to petition their government concerning matters of public importance," attorney Daniel Yohalem* says in the statement. "When the ISC files a lawsuit seeking exorbitant amounts of money in retaliation for the simple act of speaking out, it has a chilling effect on the ability of citizens to participate in public processes.”

Specifically, Gaume alleges that the commission's Subcommittee on the Gila Diversion Project regularly met without giving public notice, publishing agendas or publishing meeting minutes.  

The Gila Diversion Project would divert water from the river for use in other parts of the state. Several environmentalists and concerned residents argue that it would damage wildlife and ecosystem around the river. Gaume has also questioned the science behind estimates of how much water it would produce.

*Full disclosure: Yohalem is separately representing SFR in a lawsuit against Gov. Susana Martinez.

Morning Word: Lab Documents Improperly Classified

FBI seizes Tommy Rodella's scholarship funds

Morning WordWednesday, January 28, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Enjoy one more day of good weather before a winter storm rolls back into the state. Cooler temps and a chance of rain are expected Thursday and through the weekend.

It's Wednesday, January 28, 2015.

National security information was improperly released by a Los Alamos National Labs contract employee who misclassified documents at least half a dozen time and then failed to report the breaches, according to federal investigators.

Patrick Malone has the story. 

A week after former Rio Arriba Sheriff Tommy Rodella was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for violating a driver's civil rights, the FBI has seized money from his scholarship fund bank account. The money, agents believe, was extorted from other motorists by Rodella and other deputies in lieu of being issued a traffic citation.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Unemployment claims in New Mexico have dropped for the second month in a row. The state's unemployment rate, according to New Mexico Workforce Solutions, is 6.1 percent.

Read more at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

Four City of Albuquerque employee union local chapters have struck a deal for new 18-month contracts and a 2.86 percent pay raise after state District Court Judge Alan Malott ordered mediated negotiations last fall. 

See more at ABQ Business First. 

Blue collar workers in Doña Ana County will also be getting a .17 cents an hour pay raise after a bigger 3 percent raise in 2014. 

Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

The US Securities and Exchange Commission wants former Santa Fe developer Charles Kokesh to pay a huge $35 million dollar fine for using company assets for personal use.
Kokesh was a colorful businessman who moved to Santa Fe in the early 1990s. In addition to his startup investment funds, he was active in the community, supported local charities and purchased the Santa Fe Horse Park, which he opened to public events such as polo, soccer and an annual Halloween festival.  
Last October, a federal jury found evidence to support all the financial abuse allegations.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican.

A teenager claims the state isn't doing enough to protect air quality and now the New Mexico Court of Appeals has decided to consider Akilah Sanders-Reed's complaint.
She was one of dozens of youths under age 18 in all 50 states who filed similar petitions or lawsuits at the same time in an unusual campaign, arguing that under an old but rarely tested legal concept called the public trust doctrine, state governments have a responsibility to protect the atmosphere from greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. 
Staci Matlock reports for the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Children Youth and Families cabinet Secretary-designate Monique Jacobson told lawmakers yesterday that she's backing a department budget proposal supported by Gov. Susana Martinez that would result in fewer employees being hired to investigate child abuse cases. 

Read more online. 

At the same time, the the Tourism Department is also scaling back it's original $3.5 million marketing budget request to extend it's New Mexico True campaign to San Francisco.

Reporter Jessica Dryer has more. 

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has responded to The New Yorker magazine's scathing story on the aggressive culture and use of deadly force by city cops.

See it at KOAT. 

Berry is also defending the city's position to ask for a independent investigator to review police shootings in the future. Berry says his administration isn't retaliating against District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, who filed murder charges against two officers in the shooting death of a homeless camper last April. 

More of the interview here. 

Big new highway construction and road projects may be ahead. Gov. Martinez is proposing $300 million for the work over several years.

Read Dan Boyd's story at the ABQ Journal. 

The former governor of Santa Ana Pueblo who had pled guilty to multiple charges involved with defrauding the US government and embezzlement in connection developing land at the old Albuquerque Indian School is expected to change is not guilty plea. 

Investigative Reporter Thom Cole has the scoop. 

A bill in the New Mexico Legislature would make it harder for drunk or high workers to be awarded workers' compensation insurance benefits.
Currently, when alcohol or drugs contributes to injury or death, the employee or survivors are eligible to receive 90 percent of workers’ compensation. Under the new legislation, that amount would be reduced by a minimum of 35 percent up to a maximum of 85 percent, depending on the degree to which the intoxication contributed to the injury or death.
Read more at the ABQ Journal. 

If you've following the Two Eagles balloon flight across the Pacific Ocean like us, it looks like they're on their way to a record for distance and endurance.

Track the historic flight online. 

3 Questions

with Laura Gonzales-Meredith

3 QuestionsTuesday, January 27, 2015 by Emily Zak

On Wednesday’s “Caves, Cribs and Cathouses: How Frontier Prostitution Helped Build the West,” Laura Gonzales-Meredith speaks about prostitution during the 19th century at the St. Francis Auditorium. A former worker at Fort Union National Monument, she now teaches history at Luna Community College in Las Vegas.

Tell me about your work on frontier prostitution.
This particular project is work that I’ve done on my master’s thesis. It started probably about nine years ago when I was working at Fort Union National Monument. I came across, with a colleague of mine, some articles in the archives regarding some prostitutes who had been publicly humiliated and run out of the fort at Fort Union. I just remember getting really intrigued by the story and the fact that it wasn’t being told.

What interested you about these sex workers?
These women led such fascinating and misunderstood lives. I think in society we have this common interpretation about them, and it generally tends to be negative—we fault them for their choices and decisions—or we romanticize their lives. It’s interested me to get to know them on a more personal level. They’re a little hard to pinpoint, and they’re all just so different.

What are breakthroughs you’ve had in your research?
I just started to see these women’s lives were influential in the growth of the West. In a lot of these small, primitive frontier towns, they’re dominated by male communities, and those communities can be pretty rough around the edges. And time and time again, these women are the ones that bring that element of civilization to it. They’re often the ones that stay back when there’s an epidemic of influenza or smallpox or something, so they’re acting as nurses. Madams are acting as surrogate mothers to these women who have been abandoned in the West or have lost their family for some reason…They’re making all of these contributions toward society, and yet in this society there’s not a place for them, and they get shunned.

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