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Morning Word: PNM Wants Quick Rate Increase Vote

Utility says regulators have all the information they need

Morning WordTuesday, August 30, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
PNM Calls PRC’s Bluff
The Public Service Company of New Mexico signaled that it wants a straight up or down vote on its rate increase request that could eventually boost consumer electric rates more than 16 percent. Regulators said they’d be willing to reopen discussions about whether the investor-owned utility has justified their request. 

Barela Resigning
He’s been head of the state’s economic development department since 2011, but John Barela is now slated to become the chief executive officer at the Borderplex Alliance, where he’ll focus on trade and economic development along the US-Mexico border. Martinez tapped Deputy Secretary Barbara Brazil to replace Barela beginning Oct 1. 

Mother Supports Death Penalty
Gov. Susana Martinez will have a powerful ally when she asks lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty. Pamela Foster, the mother of Ashlynne Mike, who was murdered near Shiprock earlier this year, supports it. Foster all wants the Navajo nation to opt back into the federal death penalty option.

Only in New Mexico
It’s a sad state of affairs when one woman has had two trucks stolen from the same Rail Runner station within three months of each other, but that’s exactly what happened to Mary Phillips in Belen this summer. 

Merchants Protest Parking Rate Hike
Santa Fe shop owners let Mayor Javier Gonzales know they’re not happy about the city’s July parking rate increase and they want it rescinded because it’s “driving customers away.”

State Employee Denies Using Ashley Madison Account
Phaedra Haywood reports: Ronald Sanchez, who was fired from his state job after a hacker connected his government email address to the controversial dating site Ashley Madison, is challenging his dismissal on grounds of a double standard.
He says he never used the Ashley Madison site, and that he and other information technology staff members were held to a higher standard than other employees when it came to email use, violating his constitutional right to due process.
State Pension Funds Ranked Seventh Worst
Lawmakers are expressing concerns about the future solvency of a state employee pension fund which has missed investment goals for the past two years. Other investment analysts are more concerned about the lack of pension funds or retirement savings plans offered to people employed in the private sector. They want to discuss new options to help people prepare for their golden years.

Johnson Launches Radio Ads
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is buying air time and spending $800,000 on radio ads in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin, according to New Mexico Political Report. Maybe the ads will raise his ratings to at least 15 percent and get him on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Morning Word: Budget Volatility Not New

Morning WordMonday, August 29, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Budget Volatility Not New
As lawmakers consider options to reduce budget shortfalls, Dan Boyd reports that volatility in the state’s revenue stream isn’t new: In just the past 10 years, there have been three budget years–2009, 2010 and 2016–in which recurring revenue levels have fallen by more than 8 percent from the previous year’s levels. And the state ranked eighth nationally in tax revenue volatility over a recent 20-year period, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Advocates: Don’t Cut Pre-K Programs
If planned tax cuts aren’t frozen or delayed, the only other real option is to start cutting spending. That’s not something that child well-being experts want, especially now that pre-k programs appear to be boosting educational outcomes for low-income children. They say the program should continue to be funded.
While only about 18 percent of New Mexico’s low-income third-graders who weren’t enrolled in the tuition-free PreK program showed proficiency in math and English language skills on the inaugural PARCC exams, the report says, 24 percent of low-income PreK kids were proficient in math, and 22 percent were proficient in reading and writing. Testing results for third-graders of all income levels show former PreK students had a higher proficiency rate in math, at 27 percent, compared to 25 percent for non-PreK students. Both groups scored equally in reading, at 25 percent.
Lawsuit: State contractors ordered employees to commit fraud
A former New Mexico Works program employee’s new lawsuit accuses five former contract company managers with instructing her and other employees “to commit illegal and possibly fraudulent acts” processing TANF and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program applications.

Mourners Celebrate Martens' Birthday
Thousands of people gathered Sunday in an Albuquerque park to give Victoria Martens the big birthday celebration she wanted, while mourners try to make sense of 10-year-old’s brutal killing.

New Juried Process for Indian Market Artists
The Santa Fe New Mexican and Associated Press report artists who’ve earned tenure at Indian Market in Santa Fe will have to vie for a spot like everyone else starting next year. Organizers have decided they want everyone to compete through a juried process, which some contend could favor younger, more contemporary artists.

Quarterback Sparks Controversy
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit through the national anthem to protest police use of force and what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.is getting mixed reactions from NFL fans around the country, with some people supporting his stands while others burn his jersey number in effigy.

Junior Chef Honored
Foodies will love this. A Las Cruces boy who invented a recipe for green chile cheese rolls and lime jicama fries, and won top prize in first lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, was recognized for his culinary talents during a visit to the White House.

This Weekend

TGI-Weekend

Weekend PicksFriday, August 26, 2016 by SFR

Davis Mather Folk Art Gallery Grand Re-Opening

Enjoy treats and artist demonstrations at this re-opening party.
 
More Info >>

Residency

See works by 14 artists depicting each artist's vision of house and home. Through Nov. 21.

More Info >>

Santa Fe Bandstand: Closing Event

They are already over, summer and Bandstand season. Come see the last performance of the season featuring Jono Manson and his Grammy-winning Americana sound and a slew of talented guests.

More Info >>


GLASS ALLIANCE NEW MEXICO: Maestro Presentation

Maestro Latchezar Boyadjiev will give a talk and slide presentation about his work as a sculptor of glass. A native of Sofia, Bulgaria, Boyadjiev’s dynamic sculptures reflect depth and dimension. Hear him talk about his innovative creative process.

More Info >>

Cover Girl

Emmaly Wiederholt performs the one-woman choreographed dance she created with artistic director Malinda La Velle at The Peñasco Theater in March.

More Info >>

Zircus Erotique Burlesque & Variety Show

Zircus Erotique brings their burlesque and variety show to the Palace Restaurant & Saloon with special guest performers from Amarillo.

More Info >>


In Search of Israeli Cuisine

The Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival brings a special screening of the exploratory documentary film about the cultural food fusions happening in Israel.

More Info >>

The Tastes of Israel

Enjoy a pre-fixe dinner menu of Israeli cuisine accompanies the earlier showing of a documentary about the same kind of fare. Learn about it and then eat it with the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival.

More Info >>

Michael Franti and Lila Downs

Creativity for Peace brings two internationally recognized performers to the opera stage for a benefit concert. Dance and enjoy the indie folk for a good cause.

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: Voters Favor Tax Cut Delay

Morning WordFriday, August 26, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Poll: Voters Want Tax Cuts Delayed or Frozen
Lawmakers should consider delaying or freezing corporate tax cuts to help close a huge state budget deficit, according to 38 percent of voters who responded to a poll commissioned by the New Mexico Political Report. Another 30 percent of voters think across the board spending cuts the best option.

Lawmakers: Boost Teacher Pay
A bunch of Democrat lawmakers contend tax revenues need to be raised if for no other reason than to fund schools and to boost teacher pay. A report released by the Economic Policy Institute shows the “teacher pay gap” as a major factor in declining education outcomes.

Facebook Needs a Ton of Water
Money from New Mexico’s Local Economic Development Act’s closing fund may be used to help Facebook pay for water rights at a major new data center proposed at Los Lunas, according to the Associated Press.
The proposed water agreement would guarantee an initial supply of 1.5 million gallons a day for the first two data center buildings and as much as 4.5 million gallons a day if the facility expands to a fifth and sixth building. Some of that water capacity is a precaution. Facebook’s exact needs were unclear.
Mourners Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Murdered Girl
Last night, hundreds of people attended a vigil for Victoria Martens, the 10-year-old girl brutally murdered in Albuquerque. The girl's mother, Michelle A. Martens, 35, and two others are charged in the homicide. People are filling the mother’s Facebook page with comments, calling the suspects "sick and disgusting monsters.” 

Suspect Mosquito Found in New Mexico
Officials have found a mosquito capable of transmitting the Zika virus in Sierra County.
There are six reported Zika virus cases in New Mexico, one in Bernalillo County and one in Santa Fe County. All six were infected outside the state, the Health Department says. There has not been a reported case of the Zika virus in Sierra County.
Stage Drought Spreads
August rains have been good, but probably not enough to overcome a hot and dry July. For now, it appears drought conditions are spreading across the state, but they're still not as bad as a few years ago. 

Ok, that's it for this week.  Thanks Charlotte Jusinski for getting up early to fix my typos and make sure the Morning Word is tight and right.  Have a great weekend everyone. 

The Fork

Prison Ramen

The ForkThursday, August 25, 2016 by Gwyneth Doland

In light of the news that the federal government has decided to end the use of private prisons (something folks in New Mexico continue to debate), it is fascinating to find that ramen noodles are now more valuable than cigarettes in US prisons. The shift is in part due to the deterioration of food quality in privately run prisons, researchers found

Ramen noodles, aka “soup,” are so popular that one inmate wrote a book about them: Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez’ book Prison Ramen is the #1 book in Amazon’s Pasta & Noodle Cooking category. According to The Guardian:

[Alvarez] was inspired to write the book after a race riot in 2009 led to a standoff between a group of Hispanic and African American inmates. An older inmate quelled the dispute and the two groups resolved the tensions by cooking a feast together, largely with ramen noodles."

Here’s what I know about ramen: First, I just went and checked and sure enough, there are two packages of it in the embarrassing pantry section I call “nostalgia corner.” This is a for real, unstaged shot of our lazy susan:

Even though I purchased exactly zero of these items I will eat them if you put them in front of me. Because each of them turns me 8 years old as instantly as that ramen cooks.

Also, let's remember that ramen can be totally amazing. I actually had a bowl of insanely good lobster ramen (pictured above) just a couple of weeks ago at the Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar (inside Chelsea Market) in New York. It renewed my love for these noodles.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Paddy Rawal, the chef and owner of Raaga, has put out a cookbook, Curry, Korma and Kebab: A Culinary Journey of India. The hardcover book includes 250 recipes and 100 color pictures. You can get it at the restaurant (544 Agua Fria, 820-6440) for $33.

The owners of the Plaza Cafe are cooking up a new venture: Cafe Sonder is taking over the old Zia Diner space at 326 S Guadalupe St., with chef Jon Helquist dishing up a menu of what they describe as "locally driven contemporary American cuisine." Will that menu include this tempting calamari? More details on that to come.

Last week my dude and I were throwing together dinner on one of those weeknights that are just total chaos. Just before the chicken was ready to come off the grill, he looked at the little pile of purple and yellow string beans on the counter and said: "What are you doing with those?" And I was like: "Don’t you worry! They’ll be ready by the time you’re back!" And he was all: <dubious>.

But string beans actually do really well in the microwave. I just throw them in a shallow bowl, pour a splash of water in the bottom, cover the bowl and zap them for like three minutes. (Try three minutes for a small pile of skinny beans that you want al dente, up to six minutes for a bigger pile or bigger beans. Experiment.)

Another technique you may have heard of is cryo-blanching. That means to freeze things like green beans that you might otherwise blanch (briefly boil), shock (in ice water) and jump (sauté just before serving). To cryo-blanch you can lay beans out on a tray or vacuum seal them, then freeze. When you thaw them it’s as though they’ve been blanched. Pretty sneaky, sis.

So if you’ve got too much produce coming out of your garden right now, consider freezing some things you might otherwise pickle or can—or ignore until they’re only good for the compost heap.

Got compost questions? The Santa Fe Master Gardeners are holding a composting workshop this Saturday from 9-11 am at their demonstration gardens at the county fairgrounds (3229 Rodeo Road). Want to keep the season going? Homegrown New Mexico offers a class on planting for a fall harvest, to be held on Aug. 28. Sign up here.

If you just need help figuring out what’s eating your arugula or if it’s too late to plant beets, you can submit your question using this online form and a master gardener will get back to you. Pretty cool.



What news do you want to see in this newsletter? We want to hear from you! Let us know! Email thefork@sfreporter.com


Morning Word: State's Cash Reserves Drained

Morning WordThursday, August 25, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Gloomy Budget News
State state’s day-to-day operations reserve fund is down to zero and lawmakers are scrambling to figure out how to plug a $654 million budget hole before a special session.
Legislative Finance Committee members heard the bad news from legislative staff and members of Gov. Susana Martinez’s Cabinet. The numbers were more dire than anticipated because the general fund reserve balance ended fiscal 2016 in the negative.
Martinez’ Poll Numbers Hit New Low
Gov. Susana Martinez’ approval mark continues to sink. New Mexico Political Report’s new poll shows Republicans still approve of her job performance, but overall the gov's ranking is down to to 43 percent.

PRC Orders Gives PNM Another Chance
If the Public Service Company wants to bring its share of the Palo Verde nuclear plant into electric rates here, they’ll have to provide the Public Regulation Commission the cost-benefit analysis that they failed to include during the original case hearing and give regulators access to a data modeling program, according to an order issued by commissioners Wednesday.
The order reflects the primary points of disagreement between PNM and hearing examiner Carolyn Glick, who recommended a rate increase far lower than the one PNM had requested.

Her Aug. 4 recommended decision slashed PNM’s rate hike request by two-thirds, from an increase of $123.5 million in annual revenue to $41.3 million. PNM customers on average would see their bills rise by 6.4 percent under the recommended decision, rather than 14.4 percent under the utility’s request.

PNM officials have said they will file an appeal with the state Supreme Court if the PRC adopts the recommended decision without changes. The company has said it will have to lay off up to 300 employees if the recommended decision stands.
School Grades
Santa Fe Schools are still struggling to make the grade with several still getting D’s and F’s. But the latest round of scores show 10 local schools got a better grade this year. The state bases grades on scores on a number of standardized tests, improvement from prior years as a school and among individual students, classroom practices that use proven teaching methods and student attendance. A number of bonus points that can be secured through parent involvement, extracurricular offerings and reducing truancy. 

About Face
A day after rejecting an expensive tax incentive package, Utah officials are reversing direction and restarting economic negotiations with Facebook to build its new data processing center outside Salt Lake City. The social media giant is also considering building it in Los Lunas, where officials there have already approved incentives worth more than a billion over time.

Grants Police Officer Busted
New Mexico State Police arrested Grants Police Sgt. Roshern C. McKinney, 33, and his girlfriend Wednesday in Albuquerque on marijuana distribution, conspiracy and felony embezzlement charges. McKinney is accused of failing to deliver an 8-ounce brick of marijuana to the department’s evidence locker room and embezzling $750.

Sci-Fi Escape
While most people consider moving to Canada or New Zealand if the Cheeto-colored candidate wins the White House, you might dream about zipping a few trillion miles through space. Scientists have discovered a planet similar to earth with mild temperatures orbiting the next closest sun to ours.

Room to Grow

Latest school grades for SFPS show many schools still ranked with Ds, Fs

Local NewsWednesday, August 24, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

The latest round of school grades released from the New Mexico Public Education Department for Santa Fe Public Schools showed mixed results that may take weeks to decipher, but Interim Superintendent Veronica Garcia honed in on one set of scores: Acequia Madre and Pinon Elementary both moved from a B score in 2015, to an A this year. Both were able to make those necessary gains despite the very different composition—one is downtown and the other sits just south of Rodeo Road. And that’s a mark, she said in an informal sit-down with staff and media Wednesday afternoon, of an ability for schools to succeed regardless of their zipcode. 

The state bases grades on scores on a number of standardized tests, improvement from prior years as a school and among individual students, classroom practices that use proven teaching methods, student attendance, and a number of bonus points that can be secured through parent involvement, extracurricular offerings and reducing truancy. This year’s report from the state saw 10 schools receive a higher grade, 11 schools receive a lower grade, and eight receive the same score as last year. With the data fresh in their hands, Garcia says, it’s tough to name what fueled those fluxes. That analysis will likely be coming in a presentation to the school board weeks down the road. But the bottom line, Garcia says, is that to have five schools scoring an F is unacceptable. 

“We’re going to have to double our efforts,” she says. “We have a job to do and we have an ethical and a moral responsibility that we are educating our kids in a manner that they are graduating from high school and ready to go into college or career, to be ready to support their families, to be contributing members of our society.”

Notable gains were also achieved for Salazar Elementary and Gonzales Community School (K-8), with Salazar increasing from an F to a C, and Gonzales climbing for the second straight year, securing a B.

Stephanie Hubley, assistant principal at Gonzales, attributed their success to a strong team, an involved PTA, and basing instruction on student data. 

“While we do focus certainly on data, we also consider the whole student in terms of, we don’t lose the heart,” Hubley says. “So it’s kind of that interesting balance in this day and age of being data-driven and at the same time looking at the human being in front of us.”

They’ve also made use of intervention periods, additional instruction in areas identified as weak, and use that opportunity to give English language learning students additional support from certified teachers and outreach for gifted students. 

An attitude that learning doesn’t stop at 3 pm helped at Salazar, says James Luján, associate superintendent for school improvement and social justice, as did the support and dedication of staff, families and students, and an individualized approach to instruction during intervention periods.

The oft-cited frustration with the school grading system is that schools that get labeled as failing aren’t without hardworking teachers, dedicated staff or capable students, and to be marked as failing stings.

“We could take a day or two to be sad. It can be a morale issue and we need to recognize that,” Garcia says. “I don’t think I can ask teachers to work harder, because they have been working hard. It’s about working smarter.”

She’ll be aiming intensive support at those schools and named short-cycle assessments—standardized tests completed routinely through the year—as a tool to use to guide instruction and improve school performance. Ongoing professional development programs for teachers will be individualized to the school.

In secondary schools in particular, she says, teachers are prepared to teach content, not to teach students how to read, and yet, they have to teach students how to read.

“We need to work hard with our staff and students on taking the grades seriously, there’s always the controversy about standardized testing but that’s the data and we have to work with it,” says Carl Marano, principal at Santa Fe High, who just took that position this summer and says in his first weeks he’s been very impressed with both the students and the staff.

What he tells his teachers, he says, is that doing the best job they can and putting students first is what matters, and that the payoff comes in the long run.

“The biggest reward for any educator is not the school letter grade. It’s 10 years down the road, having a student say, ‘Thank you for all you did for me,’” he says. “These results aren’t immediate, but knowing that you can make an impact and be someone’s reason for coming to school, that’s what we strive to do. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the results, or ignore the data. It’s—fair or not, it’s an assessment, it’s what the state uses, and that’s what we have to live with. … We have a great school, no matter what the letter grade says.”

A complete list of school grades is available on the New Mexico Public Education Department website

Morning Word: Johnson Gains Momentum in New Mexico

New poll also shows Democrat leading in secretary of state race

Morning WordWednesday, August 24, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Poll Shows Johnson at 16 Percent in New Mexico
Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign has been gaining lots of momentum this summer, and it looks like he’s on track to do well on New Mexico’s ballot in November. New Mexico Political Report commissioned a public opinion poll that shows Johnson is favored by 16 percent of registered voters. Democrat Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 40 to 31 percent in the same poll.
In New Mexico’s biggest statewide race this fall, Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver leads Republican Nora Espinoza 42 percent to 35 percent. Still, 23 percent of New Mexico registered voters haven’t made up their minds in the Secretary of State race, more than twice the number of undecideds in the presidential race.
ID Realities
“Military installations in New Mexico, including Kirtland Air Force Base, will stop accepting some driver’s licenses for base access as early as Sept. 15 as implementation of the federal Real ID Act approaches,” military officials told the Albuquerque Journal
While New Mexico-issued licenses and IDs are valid under Real ID criteria in some aspects until October 2020, at this point they won’t be accepted for Kirtland access after Oct. 10 of this year absent another extension – which is considered likely.

Meanwhile, state officials said Tuesday they hope to begin issuing new Real ID compliant licenses later this year. Under the new system, undocumented immigrants would be eligible only for driving authorization cards that are not valid for purposes of federal identification.
Utah Pulls the Plug on Facebook
It looks like the Facebook's data center site is New Mexico’s to lose after officials in Utah pulled the plug on a hefty tax-incentive package worth up to $260 million over 20 years.

Jurors Impacted by Belt Tightening
“New Mexico jurors and court interpreters are the latest group to feel the pinch of a budget crunch that has all of state government tightening its belt,” the Associated Press reports.
A fund that pays jurors and interpreters has been struggling for several years and the shortfall is now approaching $1 million. Legislative analysts say the gap could be lessened if the courts slash juror pay rates to $4.25 an hour. State statute calls for minimum wage. The Legislature has authorized the state Supreme Court to adjust the payments to cope with underfunding.
Garcia Optimistic at Start of School Year
The new interim Santa Fe Public Schools superintendent sat down with SFR’s Elizabeth Miller to talk about her priorities as school gets underway. Veronica Garcia says she’s focused on “ensuring teachers, staff, students and the community feel a sense of stability despite a change in leadership.” 

Dream Center
A nonprofit faith-based group wants to buy the old Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque and turn it into a center to house and help people struggling with drug addictions, homelessness and victims of human trafficking.

Space Cadets
The Washington Post has an interesting feature about the billionaires pioneering space tourism.

Zozobra Stuffed
Old man gloom won’t go down in a blaze of fire for another week, but Santa Fe residents are already stuffing the cranky bastard with papers documenting their personal frustrations and gloom. Santa Fe police and the sheriff's department give a lot of shredded paper for the cause, including old reports, search warrants and other gloom and doom.

MetroGlyphs

08.24.16

MetroGlyphsWednesday, August 24, 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

7 Days

08.24.16

7 DaysWednesday, August 24, 2016 by SFR
1

RYAN LOCHTE’S LIES EMBARRASS THE NATION

That’s why they call him Swim Shady.

2

PARCC TEST RESULTS SHOW LOCAL SCHOOLS IMPROVE IN MATH

May they grasp compounding interest more firmly than we did.

3

ALL PUEBLO COUNCIL OF GOVERNORS ENDORSES CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT

Alice Cooper and Gary Johnson are super-bummed.

4

GAWKER.COM SAYS GOODBYE

Remember, we live in a country where a billionaire can shut down a whole media outlet because of a story he doesn’t like.

5

UBER APP ADDS SPANISH-SPEAKING DRIVER REQUESTS

¡Vamanos!

6

WIPP ACCIDENT RANKED AMONG MOST COSTLY NUKE ACCIDENTS IN NATION

That’s how we get to the top of the list!

7

GOVERNOR DECLARES DEATH PENALTY AS POLICY PRIORITY

Voters will only support this if it’s a sentencing option for a 13th DWI.


Morning Word: PNM Wants Quick Rate Increase Vote
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