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Morning Word: Christmas Travel Could Be Chaotic

George RR Martin lands

Morning WordWednesday, December 24, 2014 by Peter St. Cyr
Posole, tamales, biscochitos, and empanadas. The kitchen smells a little like Christmas. The farolito bags are folded and the candles are ready to be lit. It's Christmas Eve morning and we've got the news, sports and a few angels in the 'Word' for you today.


It's Wednesday, December 24.


The weather here may be delightful, but storms around the country could give Christmas Eve travelers a headache and make a mess out of flight schedules.

More online here.

Of course, only one flight really matters tonight.

NORAD's Santa Tracker here.

The national economy got an early Christmas gift on Tuesday, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average zooms past $18,000. That makes the New Year look a little brighter, right?

See it on USA Today Money 

Lots of federal money is headed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Read more at the Los Alamos Daily Post. 


Money bonuses paid to top Albuquerque Police command staff is drawing criticism. Dan McKay reports that new Police Chief Gorden Eden opted out of the retention pay program.

Read it at the ABQ Journal. 

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales wants city councilors to waive their attorney-client privilege amid criticism they violated the New Mexico Open Meetings act when they met behind closed doors last month.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 


The Interview is going back on theatre marquees so you can stop looking for a bootlegged copy. “We got it.” That’s what George RR Martin wrote after getting word from Sony Pictures that his Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe will have The Interview in time for Christmas Day screenings. The film will then rotate with other films already booked at the theatre for the next two weeks. In Albuquerque, check the Guild Cinema’s website for possible scheduling updates.

Read GGRM’s online journal. 


Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, says Gov. Martinez’s Children, Youth and Families Department cabinet secretary nomination was a “reckless decision.”
The Governor’s pick to lead CYFD has no experience in this critical area. CYFD demands a leader that has specific training in social work, early education, and assisting families in crisis. 
Padilla, a former foster child himself, was just elected Senate Whip. He’s also upset the department has not delivered an annual performance report to the legislature.

Read Padilla’s view online. 

Jacobson is defending herself against Padilla’s criticism and says she’s ready to improve the state’s dismal national child welfare ranking.
That is why I believe this is one of the most important jobs in the entire state. These children are our future, and I believe these children deserve my heart, my soul, my passion. 
Nearly 30 percent of our state's children live in poverty.

See it at KOB 4. 

Political insider Mark Bentley blogs about some of the legislative bills prefiled this month, including one introduced by Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, that would charge companies a surcharge when their chief executive officers earn more than 100 percent than their average workers.
The tax would be equal to one percent of the net income of the company, including those not headquartered in New Mexico who fit the 100 times marker. 
McCamley has prefiled seven bills and it’s not even Christmas yet.

Read Mark’s report online. 

Former Democratic Party Chairman and longtime UNM Regent Jamie Koch has been nominated by Gov. Susana Martinez to replace Conrad James, a Republican from Albuquerque, who returns to the Roundhouse in January just in time for his party’s takeover of the New Mexico House. Former Clovis area District Attorney Matt Chandler who helped get James elected was also appointed to become a UNM Regent. Both Koch and Chandler will have to be confirmed by the New Mexico Senate.

Details on the Greensheet. 

Transportation officials hope the first leg of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) system is rolling by Labor Day, 2017. ART is modeled on other similar projects across the country, including one it Cleveland.
It is a system of sleek buses with dedicated lanes that stop at raised platforms, subway style, where riders have pre-purchased tickets for quick on-and-off access. 
The first 10-mile section will run from Nob Hill to the Albuquerque Bio Park.

Read it at ABQ Business First 

UNM Lobo Basketball Reporter Geoff Grammar says the team fell flat in their 65 to 68 loss on the road last night.

Read it at the ABQ Journal. 


Producers from National Geographic TV’s “Crowd Control” will feature the Route 66 singing road – a 1,300 foot strip of road with rumble strips embedded in the pavement that produce the musical notes for America the Beautiful. It was designed to slow down, and we guess entertain, drivers. The show airs Monday at 4 p.m.

Watch a preview on YouTube.

MSN.com has posted a story about the best foods you should eat in every state. It’s enchiladas for New Mexico. And it’s the perfect time of the year to ask for them Christmas style (a little red, a little green).

More at MSN.


Real spirit of the season: A layaway angel paid off the Toy R Us bills for several customers in Albuquerque. The Toys R Us corporate office said one person paid off $4,000 worth of gifts at the Uptown store on Indian School this year, covering the cost of 53 layaways.

Read it at the ABQ Journal

In the spirit of the season, a Walgreens in Farmington has donated a bunch of Teddy Bears and other toys to local police officers to deliver to local children they encounter over the holidays.

See it at KOB 4

Speaking of angels, the journalists at New Mexico In Depth are preparing a 2015 New Mexico Legislative Guide and are looking for open government supporters to help them shine the light on the Roundhouse.

Become a Transparency Champion here. 

Newsman Chris Ortiz has posted some funny animated gifs for the 16 things journalists really Want for Christmas this year.

Only on NewsCastic.

Gone, but not forgotten. Matthew Reichbach, the former editor of the Morning Word, found a holiday story we had to put in the Christmas Eve Morning Word: Reichbach tweeted a piece he found online about eggnog claiming its first victim of the year. Apparently a man was hospitalized after chugging a quart.

Read more online. 

Have a Merry Christmas. We’ll be back on Friday.

In Good Fortune

Make way for Flix & ChopStix, round two

PicksTuesday, December 23, 2014 by Enrique Limón

The tinsel, the relatives, the carols, the sitting on a strange man’s lap is enough to drive even the jolliest of characters to drown their sorrows in nog. But do not fret, there’s finally a local tradition that begs for you to step away from the Stove Top, sit back, relax and catch a film or three.

Enter Flix & ChopStix, a special event from the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival that pairs classic movies with chow mein.

“Last year was an absolute blast,” festival director Marcia Torobin tells SFR. “We had people as they were walking out trying to make reservations for this year.”

Hold on, Chinese food for Christmas you ask? In a post called Judaism 101, jewfaq.org explains that, “The Chinese do not celebrate Christmas any more than we do, so most Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas. In Philadelphia and New York, there are several kosher-certified Chinese restaurants to choose from, so that even the most observant Jew can eat Chinese on Christmas.”

The local event, Torobin points out, is open to all. “There are a lot folks—not just people who are Jewish—that don’t celebrate Christmas or finish dinner early and are looking for fun stuff to do,” she says.

The film lineup this year includes 1968’s The Producers with Zero Mostel, Annie Hall and Crossing Delancy. So why not start a new tradition?

“They’re lighthearted and classic,” Torobin says of the titles. “Also, they’re about 10 years apart, so you can see the evolution of light comedy in film, and each one of them was important in their own way.”


Flix & ChopStix
2 pm Thursday, Dec. 25 $8-$36
CCA Cinematheque
1050 Old Pecos Trail,
982-1338

3 Questions

with JoAnne Dodgson

3 QuestionsTuesday, December 23, 2014 by Emily Zak

With the New Year fast approaching, the Santa Fe Center for Spiritual Living hosts a special bone throwing ceremony on Monday to offer guidance into 2015. JoAnne Dodgson, a local shamanic healer and teacher of Ka Ta See, a tradition from the eastern Andes, leads the way.

Explain what bone throwing means.

Bone throwing is an ancient Peruvian healing art, which offers information, guidance and ‘doctoring’ from the 60-plus spirits in the bone bundle. In the ways of Ka Ta See, the apprenticeship as a bone thrower involves in-depth studies of this lineage and intentional cultivation of personal relationships with the spirit nations. Following several years of extensive studies, I received permission to share throwing of the bones ceremony as part of my healing arts practice. My teacher Kay Cordell Whitaker apprenticed with Chea Hetaka, a Peruvian elder. The art of bone throwing is a traditional medicine way passed on among the women in Chea Hetaka’s tribal culture in the eastern Andes.

What can this upcoming throwing reveal?

This community throwing of the bones ceremony will be shaped by the questions asked by the participants. What would they like to have information and guidance about as we move into the new year? Each bone throw is so unique; the spirits’ perspectives are so vast. There is much healing and transformation that unfolds during the ceremony and potentially for the days, months, years to follow.

Why is this ceremony important?

It is an honor, a great joy, to share this ceremony. Throwing of the bones ceremony offers communication with the spirits that reaches beyond the limited concepts we may be holding onto, beyond the judgments, assumptions and fears that get in our way, as we navigate life transitions and make decisions about health, relationships, work, life purpose, spiritual path—whatever the questions may be about.

On Tap

Should the adversarial relationship between bars and liquor control be past tense? More of SID’s citations are now warnings

FeaturesTuesday, December 23, 2014 by Justin Horwath

Instead of paying a $5 cover charge, the man who visited the newest downtown bar on a busy November Saturday night flashed his badge.

That’s according to Doug Nava and Mark England, co-owners of The Blue Rooster, who say he then walked with a practiced stumble as he headed up the stairs from the basement bar, where, in a previous incarnation of the night hotspot, a stripper pole decorated the dance floor.

A server, they say, alerted other employees of the man’s stagger, and a bartender refused to serve him alcohol.

“If I ever wanted to kiss somebody in my life, it was that night,” says Nava, “because God bless my staff for paying attention.”

The badge wasn’t that of a local cop, but from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety’s Special Investigations Division, a police unit with statewide jurisdiction to enforce the Liquor Control Act—marking at least the second time SID darkened the door since the bar’s grand opening in early October, say the owners.

Owners of downtown’s newest bar, The Blue Rooster, say they’ve had visits from SID at least twice since opening in October.
Justin Horwath

Like many interviewed in the industry, the owners of The Blue Rooster say they see the need for SID’s role in a state with a poor track record for drunken driving. But Nava, a lifetime local with a tattoo of Don Diego de Vargas to prove it, says he wishes the investigators would put on the shoes of a bar owner who must ensure each of the thousands of liquor sales conforms with the rigid provisions of the state law.

“They should be educators,” Nava says of the division, “not witch hunters.”

Capt. Tim Johnson took command of the division in August 2013 from Bill Hubbard. He says his agents were “not involved” in the November visit to Blue Rooster, but they do have records of a visit on Halloween, when SID found two violations and gave the bar time to come back into compliance.

It’s part of what he describes as the “balanced approach” SID is taking between education and enforcement. He says he’s not the official who “walks around pounding his chest every time we have to take an enforcement action on a licensee.”

Shifting tactics

An SFR analysis found SID has drastically shifted enforcement tactics in Santa Fe County in the last year alone, issuing citations against pubs, liquor stores, restaurants and gas stations across the jurisdiction more than it has since at least 2010. At the same time, those citations have been less punitive than in the past.

Alcohol retailers say troublesome conflict remains in the relationship. They point to controversial enforcement tactics—which have included paying minors to attempt to purchase alcohol, stealthily video-recording sales to people agents perceive to be intoxicated or even sitting down in a bar, sometimes for over an hour, waiting for a violation.

Still, alcohol-abuse prevention advocates argue that the powerful liquor industry’s bottom line is driven by a harmful substance. They say it’s consequences—not warnings—that will keep things in check, especially in a year that’s seen a slight uptick in DWI-related crashes in the area.

Johnson couches enforcement interactions in much less antagonistic terms than what operators of a licensed liquor business have come to expect. Some in the industry welcome that change.

He’s aware that some tactics, like sting operations, cause liquor licensees “grief,” but he maintains they’re a necessary part of slowing the “DWI and alcohol-related quagmire that we find ourselves in.”

He says it’s frustrating that punishments attract more attention than SID’s educational efforts, which included at least 4,500 inspections at liquor establishments across the state in 2014, more than four times the number of premise inspections conducted last year, says Johnson. SID agents have discretion to give businesses time to come into compliance rather than issuing fines, he says, and in many cases, giving businesses 30 days to fix violations.

"I guess they’ve got a job to do, and I’ve got a job to do"

“Obviously, with alcohol-related problems in the state, we can ill-afford to have adversarial relationships with the licensees and their staff,” he says. “And we believe that premise inspections [are] the first step to creating those partnerships based on the common goal of the responsible sale of alcohol.”

But ask area servers and owners to talk about SID, and they’re unlikely to comment on the record. Nava and England are among the few industry insiders interviewed in Santa Fe who would share their thoughts publicly about the agency. Others feared retaliation for openly criticizing the division.

Nick Klonis, owner of the 45-year-old downtown, rock-‘n’-roll, cash-only bar Evangelo’s, shook his head when asked one night to comment on SID’s enforcement. “I guess they’ve got a job to do, and I’ve got a job to do,” he says. “That’s all.”

“Businesses try desperately to fit within the law and do the right thing,” says Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, “and they’re scared to death of these citations.”

Public records detailing citations issued by SID to Santa Fe County liquor establishments from Jan. 1 to Oct. 28 demonstrate the dramatic enforcement shift under Johnson. The citations more than tripled from the previous year. And if history is any guide, citations are sure to spike in the next few weeks as agents monitor the busy holiday season.

Yet, it’s a markedly different type of enforcement.

While officials issued 68 citations so far this year, a jump from 21 in all of 2013, warnings made up a much bigger portion of citations than in past years.

Nick Klonis mans the door at his downtown bar, Evangelos, where patrons pay cash only.
Justin Horwath

Many of the warnings stem from increased site visits by the division, like the one The Blue Rooster received on Halloween night, when the owners say a “polite” official from the division showed up during peak hours on the holiday to check on paperwork regulations—such as whether the liquor license was properly displayed on the premise.

Ben Lewinger, executive director of the New Mexico chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says his group has worked closely with Johnson over the past year. “The new director is really looking to take a balanced and fair approach to compliance,” he says.

Johnson notes that in January, SID assigned two agents and a sergeant to the county, a change from the past when Albuquerque agents would also cover Santa Fe. “That increased activity that you see in Santa Fe County, it really boils down to stability of having personnel there,” he says.

Johnson says he’s taken seriously the three complaints from operators about conducting site inspections during holidays and rushes.

“I apologize to them—the agents are just doing their job,” he says. “We do try hard to ensure that we’re not doing our inspections during their peak hours.”

Wight says members of the New Mexico Restaurant Association report they’ve received citations for administrative issues that hadn’t come up before in the past. She says she thinks the “new director was put in place and told to be less lenient on those paperwork violations.”

In all of the 22 cases where a Santa Fe County liquor establishment failed to produce “required documents,” the state issued an establishment a warning rather than a fine this year, the records through Oct. 28 show.

About 64 percent all citations issued here in that time period ended in warnings, which also helps explain why the state had only collected $16,250 in fine revenue from Liquor Control Act violations in Santa Fe County by the end of October. Meanwhile, from 2010-2013, the state collected an average of $32,000 each year from the county’s liquor establishments.

“I think from a strategic point of view it makes sense to have a wider breadth of citations issued, so you’re interacting with more license holders and just cracking down on a few ,” Lewinger says.

Yet some in the prevention community worry that any perceived relaxation in enforcement will lead to more alcohol-related harms. Linda Atkinson, executive director of the Albuquerque-based nonprofit DWI Resource Center, says, “The laws might be there,” but that the state is “taking the path of least resistance” against liquor establishments.

“The incentive is to sell, sell, sell; that’s where the enforcement needs to come in,” she says. “I don’t think you get that with singing ‘Kumbaya’ and issuing warnings.”

She prefers a “tough-love approach” focused on deterrence that she posits will lead people to be aware of and obey laws.

More citations, more warnings

Between 2010 and 2013, a liquor establishment here was most likely to be cited by SID for selling alcohol to a minor or to an intoxicated person. Those violations constituted nearly three-fourths of 115 total citations during that four-year period. But in the first 10 months of this year, those citations constituted just one-third of violations.

The percentage change is not because SID officials are issuing fewer citations against county establishments for those more serious offenses, but because they’re issuing more citations for what amount to paperwork violations this year. As of Oct. 28 in Santa Fe County, SID issued 14 citations for sale to a minor and nine citations for sale to an intoxicated person, the second and third most common citation behind “records violations.”

But there’s one notable shift in enforcement of the major violations of the Liquor Control Act: In the nine times SID issued a citation against a county liquor-license holder for sale to an intoxicated person, it fined only two establishments. The rest received warnings.

In years past, warnings weren’t the rule of the day. For the previous three years, records show, only three of the 27 citations against a Santa Fe County liquor establishment for sale to an intoxicated person resulted in a warning or dismissal. Most everyone else paid penalties ranging from $1,000 and suspension of liquor sales for at least a day to $10,000 in fines and revocation of a liquor license.

Sale to an intoxicated person is perhaps the most controversial requirement state law imposes on liquor sellers. The industry argues that, despite mandatory training for servers, it’s not always “obvious” when someone is intoxicated, while alcohol-abuse prevention advocates counter that because alcohol impairs a person’s judgment, a server needs to ensure that it’s sold responsibly.

“Maybe [a] person has had two shots in the last five minutes, one right next door, one right across the way, and is now going to get their third shot,” says Cesar Fort, partner in another of the city’s happening basements, The Matador. “I look at them and they’re fine. They’re not slurring or anything. The alcohol is still in their stomach, you know? And here I serve them their third shot. And two minutes later, they stumble over drunk, and I’m like, ‘There was no way where I could anticipate how much they’ve had to drink.’”

Wight agrees with the improbable success of such assessments. “This is the one place in the law where basically the government deputizes private citizens to carry out the law,” she says.

Fort says SID’s enforcement has led to a change from the days of unregulated alcohol consumption when “anyone was allowed to pretty much get drunk to where they could fall off a stool and just wander out in the street, cause havoc, drive, whatnot.”

“Bars do not overserve in the way that used to be more typical,” he says.

The division’s general conduct has gotten a lot better, he says, because going after smaller citations and working with bars to ensure they comply with the law sends an effective message. To Fort, that’s better than criminalizing servers based on subjective guesses about the intoxication level of a patron.

“In addition to other commonly recognized tests of intoxication,” state rules say a server can tell a person was overserved if his or her blood-alcohol content is at 0.14 or higher on breath or blood tests taken 90 minutes after the “sale, service or consumption of alcoholic beverages”—evidence that the person was intoxicated at the time of the last sale. Obviously, it’s not a practice for bars to administer the tests.

A patron pounds a bottle of water below decks at The Matador.
Justin Horwath

SID probes of overserving have led to some of the state’s most serious fines of $10,000 against establishments in high-profile DWI-related fatalities in Santa Fe’s recent history, including against Blue Corn Brewery & Café for serving James Ruiz three beers and three shots the night in 2010 that he crashed his truck into the vehicle of a San Juan family, killing sisters Del Lynn and Deshauna Peshlakai, ages 19 and 17. It took more than three years for the fine to be issued.

The state also fined Cowgirl BBQ $10,000 in 2012 after Kylene Holmes drove the wrong way on I-25, slamming her car into an ambulance at speeds estimated to exceed 100 miles per hour. The state alleged the Cowgirl served Holmes, who died in the 2010 crash, four vodka martinis. Cowgirl employees refused her another drink and called authorities when her and a passenger, who lived, stumbled into the car.

Both establishments were also forced to suspend liquor sales temporarily.

Case like these are part of the reason why SID continues to conduct source investigations of incidents, in which officials examine receipts from drivers to determine where the last alcohol sales were made.

But it has other—more controversial—enforcement methods to ensure those tragedies aren’t repeated. Sometimes SID agents will simply sit down at the table of an establishment to look for violations, as in the night of Jan. 26, 2013, at Junction bar in the Santa Fe Railyard when Paul Varela, “for unknown reasons,” struck up a conversation with two SID agents sitting at a nearby table, according to an incident report.

Varela told the agents he had been drinking since 2 pm that day, first at the ski basin, then at Five Star Burgers and “openly admitted to being ‘fucked up.’” The agents cited a Junction server after he sold Varela, whose speech was reportedly slurred, another beer. For evidence, they put Varela through a variety of sobriety tests, including a Breathalyzer test in which he allegedly blew 0.26. Agents reported that the server told them he was mad that they let him serve someone they knew to be intoxicated, but one agent replied that, “It was his responsibility to recognize and not serve intoxicated persons.”

The $1,000 fine and one-day suspension of alcohol sales has been Junction’s only fine for overserving from 2010 to November 2014.

This year, the state fined Kelly’s Liquor Barn for a sale to an intoxicated person alleged to have occured on April 23—which resulted in a $1,000 fine and suspension of liquor sales for one day. The penalty is equal to as much as 20 percent of the revenue the store typically earns daily in alcohol sales, according to figures provided by store manager Hector Veleta. Add the fine to a day of suspended alcohol sales, and that’s a total revenue loss of $5,500 to $7,000 for selling one 40-ounce bottle of beer.

Veleta tells SFR he wasn’t there that night, but that a clerk, whom SID fined $250 for the transaction, sold a patron the booze. The shop attracts a lot of foot traffic from the nearby emergency homeless shelter, he notes. “Sometimes it’s really hard to tell” if a patron is intoxicated, says Veleta, who adds that customers will also send someone else to the store to purchase alcohol on their behalf.

The store hadn’t had any run-ins with SID from 2010 to 2013, data show, but it did receive another warning for sale to intoxicated person on July 17 this year—as well as two warnings for special dispenser permit violations on that same day. Veleta says the warnings stemmed from an event it catered at the Railyard.

Consequence and Liability

Any more violations for Kelly’s in 2014, and the family-owned business that’s been at its Cerrillos Road location for 12 years risks losing its liquor license.

That’s because in 2006, the three-violation threshold went into effect after a Liquor Control Task force determined that New Mexico’s five-violation threshold for pulling a liquor license was lower than neighboring states. The task force discovered that no liquor establishment’s license had been suspended since the five-violation threshold went into effect.

Keeping up with all the state regulations are avoiding confrontation with SID agents is a tall order for establishments like Kelly’s Liquor at the corner of Cerillos and Siler roads.
Justin Horwath

Since then, SID’s undercover sting operations have closed down businesses in the county and across the state. Just look to the corner of Agua Fría Road and St. Francis Drive, where a ramshackle building that used to be Matt Chavez’ House of Booze—after it took over Tony’s Liquorette—now sits empty after being fined twice in 2012 for selling to an intoxicated person and once for selling to a minor.

If the industry argues that enforcement of the state’s liquor laws has been too harsh, alcohol-prevention advocates will point to various troubling studies, like a Centers for Disease Control examination released in 2014 that found New Mexico had the highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths of adults aged 20 to 64 out of any state in the nation.

Statewide, however, New Mexico’s drunken-driving problem has improved over time, declining steadily since 2006.

In Santa Fe County, alcohol-related crashes have generally dipped from a high of 377 in 2004. Still, this year in Santa Fe County, alcohol-related crashes saw a 28 percent spike from October 2013 to October 2014 for a total of 114.

Peter Olson, DWI prevention specialist with Santa Fe County, notes it’s difficult to determine the reason for the increase. “The numbers are pretty small, so we don’t know if that’s statistically significant,” he says of the increase. “But on a personal level, it’s very significant.”

The DWI Resource Center’s Atkinson maintains that although it’s challenging to measure alcohol-related policy outcomes since policies change frequently, there’s a correlation between reduction in alcohol-related harms on the road and harsher policies for alcohol-related offenses—and vice versa—that places liability on third parties like liquor establishments.

“When you raise the perception of the risk of getting caught, behavior changes,” she says. “The research is very solid on that.”

Captain Johnson attributes the reduction in alcohol-related crashes over the past decade partly to liquor license holders making more responsible sales, calling them “part of the solution.” Back at The Blue Rooster, the music beats on a Monday night as a small group of patrons sit down at a table, adding to the handful of customers joking around the marble-coated bar. The dozen or so patrons make it one of the busier establishments Monday night—a sign of nightlife in a city whose mayor campaigned to rejuvenate it.

The owners say they try to mitigate that risk of overserving by knowing their customers, as in the case of The Matador’s Fort, who argues that local police officials are in a better position to target problems than a state agency because local authorities develop relationships with both servers and patrons.

Nava says if anyone stumbles into The Blue Rooster showing signs of overintoxication, they’ll sit them down on the couch near the front door and give them water. Sober drivers get all the free sodas they want, he says.

“I would be devastated,” Nava says, if someone the club served ended up in an alcohol-related crash. “I would be extremely crushed.”

Obstacles

Are additional health benefits for autism enough to treat the disorder here?

Local NewsTuesday, December 23, 2014 by Joey Peters

Access to medical care for autism may expand in multiple ways during the new year in New Mexico. Health care advocates are simultaneously celebrating the developments while preparing for the next hurdle.

On Jan. 1, a law goes into effect requiring state health care programs to cover diagnoses and treatment for autism.

The change continues a recent trend in New Mexico expanding health coverage of the neurological disorder, which impacts social and behavioral development. Five years ago, state lawmakers passed a bill that similarly expanded autism coverage for private insurers. And a planned spike in Medicaid practices here promises to provide similar treatment for more patients.

“I think there’s been an incredible amount of change that’s occurred,” says Santa Fe provider Zoe Migel, who serves as executive director of Bright Futures: Autism and Early Intervention.

But whether there are enough providers actually available to grant new coverage is another story. Migel and several others say this is especially an issue in remote, rural areas where health care is harder to come by.

“If you live in Albuquerque or Las Cruces, your chances of getting good services [are] much better,” she says. “Even though there are mandates, the problem remains as to whether you get access to those services anyway.”

"We have access to services, but we don’t have enough people to provide services"

It’s something that Laura Bruening, the mother of a 13-year-old boy with autism, experienced herself. In the early years of her son’s life, the family lived in Edgewood, where certified providers from Albuquerque would travel to treat her son. The distance meant limited service, and eventually, she moved closer to where she could receive care for her son.

“A lot of rural areas really rely on people in the city,” Bruening says. “I said, ‘Enough,’ and moved to Albuquerque.”

Five of the six state-certified providers that use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the most widely accepted medical approach to treat autism, are based in Albuquerque. That leaves a void for similar coverage in other parts of the state, including Santa Fe.

The scarcity, coupled with the Medicaid expansion that recently drew more than 150,000 new enrollees in New Mexico as part of the Affordable Care Act, leaves much of the state’s health care services stretched thin, Bruening says.

“We have access to services, but we don’t have enough people to provide services,” she says.

To add to the problems, Medicaid currently doesn’t provide ABA care to children with autism in New Mexico above age 5. For Bruening, whose son Michael is insured through Medicaid, this meant that she had to seek this type of treatment in other ways. Until November, Michael received ABA care through a two-year grant.

As part of the coverage, health providers helped Michael with activities like reading, answering questions and sitting still for extended periods of time.

“You would do things like teaching them how to shave,” Bruening says. “Some of those basic skills that [teens] with autism don’t have.”

ABA therapy, which stresses treatment through positive reinforcement, is backed as the best way to treat the disorder by a multitude of medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Surgeon General’s Office.

“It’s the one therapy that has the most research behind it,” Gay Finlayson, an education and outreach manager at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Development and Disability, tells SFR. “The structure of it makes sense for how to treat a person with autism.”

ABA’s required involvement with the patient, however, means its cost can be high.

The state’s Medicaid program, known as Centennial Care, originally proposed to expand ABA therapy to older children in January 2014. But the additional coverage got delayed all year and still hasn’t taken effect.

This might change next month.

Finlayson recently attended a webinar meeting with the state Human Services Department, which oversees Centennial Care. There, she says officials with HSD indicated that they would be expanding ABA therapy coverage next January.

HSD spokesman Matt Kennicott says the new autism coverage will start rolling out in January and be effective by March.

The incoming law adding autism coverage to state health care plans suffered a similar delay. Passed during the 2013 state legislative session, the bill took two years to take effect.

State Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Bernalillo, co-sponsored the legislation with state Rep. Jim White, R-Bernalillo. O’Neill blames Gov. Susana Martinez for the delay, stressing that she wouldn’t sign the bill without a wait.

“That was totally Martinez,” he says.

The bill’s fiscal impact report estimates an added cost of between $750,000 and $3 million each year. The governor’s spokesman Enrique Knell denies that the request for delay came specifically from her office. Instead, he says legislators and staff at the General Services Department decided on the postponement because the state’s benefits fund, at the time, was projected to go $70 million in the red.

“The state’s Benefit Fund is now solvent and capable of handling implementations,” Knell adds.

As for the next hurdle—fixing limited health care access in rural New Mexico—O’Neill says he first wants to see the state gather evidence about the extent of the problem.

“We hear that anecdotally as legislators all the time, and we’re pushing HSD for hard facts,” he says. “It’s definitely on our radar screen.”

Until then, Finlayson anticipates that managed care companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Molina Healthcare will hear the brunt of patients’ complaints about lack of access.

“We need to incentivize providers to come to New Mexico,” she says.

All Washed Up

Laundry owner says city policies about water for business will leave him dry

Local NewsTuesday, December 23, 2014 by Julie Ann Grimm

Luna Laundry could be the poster child for the kind of business Santa Fe needs. Yet its story might end up the kind of anecdote that economic development analysts use to talk about failure.

In ten years, the commercial laundry has gone from one part-time employee to 36 full-time employees plus 11 part-time workers. And, since owner Scott Ciener uses top-of-the-line washing machines and a recycling system, every set of hotel sheets or hospital towels washed there has a net effect of lower water use in the city and/or keeping local money local.

With over 200 clients including hotels that cater to the city’s tourism industry, recently, Ciener picked up the service for Christus St. Vincent hospital and all its clinics. That added at least 3,000 pounds of laundry to his daily load and kept money in Santa Fe’s economy that was previously going to Albuquerque.

The new client is the last straw, though. Ciener needs a bigger building. He wants to stay in Santa Fe. Yet he says the city’s rules about the cost of water for business are driving him—and the jobs he provides—out of bounds.

“There is some benefit to the powers that be keeping Santa Fe small and quaint, but at the same time, you have to support jobs and you have to support the businesses that are there,” he says. “And what the city is telling me—not with the words of the politicians or the staff, because what they all say with their words are, ‘We want you to stay’—their actions are, ‘Get out.’”

It’s not the first time Ciener has threatened to leave Santa Fe because of the water utility. In 2007, he ran into trouble after the city changed its rates into a tiered system that charged businesses increasingly higher prices as they used more water. The next year, city officials made an exception so that he and other operations like car washes and an ice plant could purchase higher volumes of water at the lower “Tier 1” rates.

City officials don’t seem too interested in his plight this time. He’s approached three councilors and the mayor and even hired a lawyer who formerly worked at City Hall.

Nick Schiavo, the director of the city’s Utilities Department, tells SFR that after reviewing the water use and bills for Luna Laundry in recent years, he sees a sweetheart deal that already comes at a cost to other water users.

The city’s special rates saved the business about $23,000 in 2010 for an average use of about 13,000 gallons per month. Now that the business has expanded and is using more than 30,000 gallons per month, other ratepayers are subsidizing it by more than $51,000 every year, Schiavo says.

“Today, if he wanted to move or even build a brand new facility, he would probably have to go back before City Council to see if they would give him this great deal again, to buy everything at Tier 1, and he would certainly have to bring water rights associated with the number of acre-feet per year that he is going to use, and he would have to pay his utility expansion charge, meter fee and other charges.”

The city’s rules about water service require significant investments that are aimed at making sure there’s enough for all homes and business.

"We are not a big new water user that is coming into Santa Fe and is going to increase the size of the water use. We are already using it."

Every new business has to get a water budget approved by the city that determines how much water will be used at the spot every year. Then, the business must purchase an equivalent amount of water rights from the city or purchase them elsewhere and transfer them to the city, a cost of about $16,000 per acre-foot.

The same rules apply to a business that plans to close one location and open in another. Water, the city says, stays with the property, not the user.

By Ciener’s calculations, he needs up to 50,000 gallons per month, and it will cost $500,000 just to turn water on at another facility. If he goes to Rio Rancho or Pojoaque, he says, that cost would be much less. While he’s committed for the winter, come spring, unless councilors are willing to look at the problem, Ciener says it might be time to call it a wash.

“We are not a big new water user that is coming into Santa Fe and is going to increase the size of the water use,” he says. “We are already using it. We just want to move it. And the bigger we get, the less water Santa Fe needs.”

Kate Noble, the city department head who oversees economic development planning, says that while businesses sometimes talk about the cost of water in Santa Fe, it’s not an issue her office sees as an impediment.

“The reality on the ground is that the city has done a lot of good work to safeguard its water supply,” she says. “With a high water use business, Luna Laundry seems to be a good one because they are doing so much reuse and recycling, but we have to look at the policies across the board and how they are applied.”

What Did You Do in the War on Terrorism, Daddy?

The Interview debacle isn’t over, and it’s pretty bizarre

SeeTuesday, December 23, 2014 by David Riedel

By the time you read this piece, it will be a week since Sony canceled the release of James Franco and Seth Rogen’s comedy The Interview. And then news broke Tuesday that the The Interview will screen on Christmas after all, just in limited release. When I got this assignment, I thought it may be a little after-the-fact to publish something so late, but this story’s inherent weirdness has given it a life beyond the 24-hours news cycle. So…thank you, North Korea?

And also: Just what the fuck is going on? As someone who’s followed the movie biz for years—either working in it, writing about it or idly observing it on Twitter—I can say that even this cold-hearted cynic never saw this coming. That is to say I never would have predicted a major motion picture studio would cancel a Christmas Day release at the behest of its corporate muckety mucks or terrorists (or both).

Refresher: Rogen and Evan Goldberg directed a comedy starring Rogen and Franco as a couple of TV guys (one an on-air personality, the other behind the scenes) who are tasked by the CIA with killing North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Someone hacked Sony and released all kinds of embarrassing secrets. Then a group calling itself the Guardians of Peace said they’d throw down all sorts of violence on any theater that showed The Interview. Lots of theater chains bailed, and Sony cancelled the release.

For those who are screaming that this is terrorism at its worst, that’s simply not true. Terrorism at its worst is, say, flying planes into buildings and killing 3,000 people. Let’s have some perspective.

Still, the threat against Sony is indeed terrorism—the GOP (ha) wanted Sony to be fearful that it would bomb some theaters (or shoot people or release poison gas or whatever). Sony appeared to be fearful. End of The Interview. That’s how terrorism works.

But—and this is a guess—Sony didn’t cancel The Interview’s release out of the kindness of its heart. Sony likely doesn’t care whether moviegoers are harmed by violence; they care about what violence against ticket buyers means: lawsuits, and lots of them.

In the end, it’s all about money. After all, Sony is a for-profit company, and what would it rather deal with? A financial loss because of the limited release, or the permanent financial losses—and permanently tarnished reputation—of a dead punter and the lawsuit his family files in federal court? The cynic in me understands exactly where Sony—and all the movie theaters that backed out of showing The Interview—is coming from. It’s hard to release movies that people will see if all the people who would see it are dead.

As for what this means for any dickhead who wants to hack a network and threaten a corporation, who can say? Did Sony set a dangerous precedent? Yes, but Sony isn’t a government with endless resources to fight cyber attacks. What are the bigwigs supposed to do? Let it die? Or, as a means of preventing physical attacks, release The Interview on 50 screens and hire armed security for each location (actually—that’s not a bad idea; think about how many sellout screenings that could lead to)?

As of this writing, Rogen, Franco and Goldberg took to social media about the rescheduled Christmas release. But the story won’t end there. The FBI claims North Korea is behind the Sony cyber attacks—this is a country that’s more of a threat to its own people than anyone else, by the way—and last week Obama said, more or less, that Sony acted like wimps. What does Sony’s latest change of plans say about the company as a whole?

And all this brouhaha is over a movie with a not bad, if callous, premise about fictitiously assassinating the real leader of a real country that—in the trailer, anyway—has two jokes about Seth Rogen’s ass. But only Nixon could go to China, and only a comedy with ass jokes and assassination attempts could spawn a debate about censorship, capitalism and terrorism. Maybe.

Another Holiday, Another Musical

'Into the Woods' should have been put in turnaround

MehTuesday, December 23, 2014 by David Riedel

Into the Woods suffers from serious cases of a) the cutes; b) the dull production design; c) the egregious casting; and d) the sloppy direction. Let’s take the last part first. Is there a reason we can’t see the giant? It’s not like we’re going to reveal a famous person playing her. Budget problems? Otherwise it seems needlessly coy.

 

Casting: Johnny Depp as the wolf? Snore. Those two child actors? The boy doing the street-urchin thing? The girl doing the Hailee-Steinfeld-in-True Grit-thing but without the charm or nuance?

 

Regarding production design, if you’re shooting the entire movie in the woods (or on sets made to look like the woods), shouldn’t someone make an effort to not make it distractingly dull looking? And back to directing, what’s with obscuring the actors’ faces?

 

Forgot about e) the photography—that’s some dreary camera work. How many different ways can one shoot trees? (In this movie, apparently two.)

 

As for the cutes, does director Rob Marshall not know that Into the Woods is a send-up and deconstruction of fairy tales (albeit a loving one)? So what’s with the earnestness of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel? And the uneven tone overall?

 

That said—or questioned—there are three good things about Into the Woods. First, Chris Pine gives, possibly, the best supporting actor performance of the year as Cinderella’s Prince. (Finally, he channels Shatner!) Second, Meryl Streep is nothing short of wonderful—no surprise there. Third, it all eventually ends.

 

INTO THE WOODS

Directed by Rob Marshall

With Streep, Pine and Emily Blunt

Regal Stadium 14

PG
126 min.

Best of 2014

Some highlights from the past 365 days

Music FeaturesTuesday, December 23, 2014 by Alex De Vore

So there we were going along minding our own business when another year up and ended on us. Yikes. The last thing I recall was thinking I’d never be old enough to buy cigarettes, and now I’m suddenly in my 30s and I’m scared, you guys.

Anyway…2014 was a pretty great year in Santa Fe music, so let’s do a quick recap of the best things that went down in the past 365 days.

Skylight Santa Fe opened its doors and paved the way for a (hopefully) awesome music venue in Santa Fe. Thus far, they’ve hosted some of my favorite events of the past year, and if they can continue to do so and also maybe teach their staff how to pour a stronger drink in a more reasonable amount of time, they’ll be the place to beat heading into 2015.

But Skylight wasn’t the only entity that kicked ass this year, as artists and bands really upped their game as well. 2014 brought the first SFR Local Music Issue in ages, which was great. Plus, releases from folky Americana maven Eryn Bent, the formation of synthy/mathy indie act Octaveleven featuring über-drummer Ben Durfee and As In We and Evarusnik members Eliza Lutz and Miranda Scott joining forces for the rockin’ and rollin’ GRYGRDNS. Twins David and Adam Malczewski’s two-man pop-punk act Almost a Lie grew tighter than ever (though they should still be on the lookout for a bassist to round out their sound), Sleeptaker melted all our faces and reminded us that metalcore was pretty killer before metalcore was a thing, Choking on Air kept it brutal over at Warehouse 21 on the regular and Beneath the Swell began their foray into the world of Black Sabbath-y roots metal (please everyone, watch out for this band). CassoVita reunited briefly, Carrion Kind and Salt For Knives released records that’ll forever cement Santa Fe’s metal rep and even old Alex here, aka i heart metal, played a show or two. Moby Dick and Love Gun played more shows that ever while welcoming the multi-talented Peter Williams back into the fold, Jono Manson went to Italy, came back, went back to Italy and then produced and recorded so many great tunes for himself and others it’s hard to believe. Joe West’s Theatre of Death made us chuckle, Andy Primm was fucking everywhere and Sattva Ananda released his first solo album after DJ-in’ around here for longer than some of the aforementioned band’s members have even been alive. Everybody in D Numbers put out at least one great solo record (particularly worth your time and money is Ben Wright’s new Mi record, One on the Way), Karina Wilson lent just about everyone everywhere her fiddle and Nacha Mendez kept it real with her own original tunes as well as a Spanish-language take on The Smiths with her new tribute band, Los Esmitz.

It was also a sad year, as we lost the likes of Joseph “Santa Fe Pulse” Moncada, Max Friedenberg, Tom Knoblauch and others. And yet, despite these tragic losses, the community rallied together for benefit shows, memorial events and good old-fashioned togetherness the likes of which goes a hell of a long way toward proving that just because we’re small doesn’t mean we can’t party with the best of ’em.

So what does 2015 hold? With rumors swirling around, like George RR Martin buying the old bowling alley for Meow Wolf or awesome news like the decriminalization of marijuana, certainly there are plenty of reasons to be excited. If a theme could be assigned to this past year, it would probably be something like perseverance. Everyone worked very hard and dealt with far more bullshit than any of us would have liked, but given how we’re leaving 2014 poised to make things better than they ever have been, though, maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we’ll all enter 2015 a little older and wiser, a little less petty and a whole lot more prepared to make it the best damn year in Santa Fe music history. Personally, I’d love that.

Bubbly Bottoms Up

Kiss My GlassTuesday, December 23, 2014 by Natalie Bovis

For centuries, bathing the tongue in a luxurious blanket of bubbles at special events has demonstrated social status. First prized by the aristocracy in England and France, sparkling wine eventually conquered the global elite. Today, the cork’s “pop” is heard ’round the world as clocks strike midnight and coupes runneth over into a new year!

Fun Facts:

Méthode Champenoise: in short summary, is Champagne’s method of fermentation. It allows the yeast to “eat” sugar inside the bottle, thereby naturally creating bubbles without additional CO2. Carbon dioxide occurs naturally during fermentation, but some other sparkling wines add it to the bottle.

Pair champers with your NYE dinner: The words “brut” or “sec” indicate a dry wine that complements light, savory dishes. “Doux” means “sweet” and better with dessert.

Bring on the Blush: The juice from all grapes runs “white.” Wine’s rosé or red hues come from contact between the fermenting liquid and red grape skins, which impart color depending upon the length of maceration. Try crimson bubblies such as Italy’s Lambrusco or Brachetto, or Australia’s sparkling shiraz (syrah).

Glass is Class: We commonly use tall, skinny flutes for Champagne, but the traditional glassware is a shallow, bowl-shaped coupe, allowing its yeasty, nutty aroma to ascend with the bubbles tickling the imbiber’s nose. It is rumored that the original mold for the Champagne coupe was shaped from Queen Marie Antoinette’s breast.

Pick Your Poison

Champagne comes from its namesake region in northern France. It’s made from pinot noir and chardonnay. Pinot meunier is often added to enhance acidity.

Cava is made primarily in Catalonia, usually using Spanish grapes macabeo (or viura), parellada, xarel·lo as well as chardonnay, pinot noir, garnacha and monastrell. Cavas typically employ méthode Champenoise.

Prosecco utilizes its namesake grape, or the grape’s ancient name “glera,” grown mainly around in northeastern Italy (particularly Veneto and Friuli).

Vinho verde is a lightly carbonated, highly acidic wine from the northwestern region of Portugal featuring interesting grapes such as loureiro, arinto, trajadura, avesso and azal.

Sparkling wine is from the United States, Australia and anywhere else that doesn’t enforce a specified region. Producers often mimic traditional Champagne, utilizing pinot noir and chardonnay, as does our local Gruet blanc de blanc.

Try these traditional Champagne cocktails, and one creative twist adapted from my wedding cocktail book The Bubbly Bride.

  • Bellini: Peach purée, a splash of peach liqueur, sparkling wine
  • Kir Royale: Raspberry liqueur, sparkling wine
  • Classic Champagne cocktail: one sugar cube doused with Angostura bitters, Champagne

Nuts & Cherries

3/4 ounce tawny port

1 teaspoon raw sugar simple syrup

3 drops almond extract

4 ounces Gruet rosé

Garnish: 1 sour cherry

Shake port, simple syrup and almond extract with ice. Strain into Champagne coupe or flute. Top with sparkling wine. Add cherry.

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