SELECT title FROM cont_articles WHERE id='' LIMIT 1 Santa Fe Reporter

Morning Word: State Police Plan Job Cuts

Morning WordFriday, December 9, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Dispatcher Jobs Being Eliminated 
The New Mexico State Police are planning to close dispatch centers in Alamogordo and Roswell next spring and lay off 11 employees as the agency moves toward a regional center to handle emergency calls.

Feds Confirm APD Criminal Investigation
Jeff Proctor reports that Department of Justice officials have confirmed that they are conducting a criminal investigation into allegations that Albuquerque Police Department employees altered and deleted body camera video.

Former Cop Won’t Be Recertified
Levi Chavez, a former Albuquerque police officer who was fired after being indicted for killing his wife and later acquitted, won’t be getting his law enforcement certification back, The state’s Law Enforcement Academy Board declined to take action on his request earlier this week. Chavez is currently in his second year of law school.

DNA Test Reports Delayed
To avoid future legal challenges, the Albuquerque Police Crime Laboratory DNA Unit won't issue any new case reports that involve biological samples from multiple subjects to ensure the samples in complex cases are property tested.
The lab is also bringing in third-party forensic experts to look at how things are done in the lab, both past and present, to make sure previous cases hold up in court. In Austin this past summer, an audit found nearly 1,400 cases may have been improperly analyzed, potentially compromising those cases. The Austin DNA lab had to be shut down as a result.
Balderas Sues Unscrupulous Real Estate Agent
The New York Times picked up a story about a lawsuit filed by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas against Albuquerque businessman Jesus Cano. Cano is accused of deceiving dozens of low-income consumers by misrepresenting the conditions of poorly maintained homes he sold and even attempting to sell properties to multiple home-buyers simultaneously.

Democrats Pick Santa Fe Native To Help Take Back US House
Santa Fe native Dan Sena will be the first Latino to serve as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His goal: take back the US House after eight years of Republican Party control. 
Sena, 41, was the DCCC’s deputy executive director in the past campaign cycle and led the committee’s data, analytics and field department. Democrats gained six seats in this year’s elections, fewer than party leaders had predicted, after an anticipated wave against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump turned into a wave in his favor. But they were able to protect key incumbents and take advantage of redistricting in Florida and Virginia to pick up a handful of seats. 
Driver’s License Data Could Aid Deportation Efforts
Immigrant advocates are expressing concerns that programs they’ve set up to help undocumented workers get driver’s licenses in states that offer them could now be used by Donald Trump’s new administration to facilitate deportations.
Nothing in federal law specifically entitles immigration agents access to state data on drivers who may be in the country illegally, according to Blazer. To get states to produce a list of these drivers, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement — which includes the federal government’s deportation arm — might have to rely on its administrative subpoena power. Even then, states could refuse to provide the information, thereby forcing the federal government to sue for the driver data or narrow its request, Blazer and other legal experts said.
Remembering John Glenn
Former astronaut and US Senator Harrison Schmidt, who represented New Mexico for six years, talked to KOAT about the life and death of fellow astronaut and “American hero” John Glenn, who died yesterday at age 95.
Whether on the senate floor or in a capsule thousands of miles above our planet, Schmitt says Glenn strove to always inspire people to do great things.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend.

The Fork

Holiday Grub

The ForkThursday, December 8, 2016 by Gwyneth Doland

There’s a sparkling wine tasting this Saturday at Rio Chama (noon-2 pm, $25 per person; 414 Old Santa Fe Trail) that includes more than 25 different producers of bubbly. I love bubbly tastings because you don’t usually get to try more than one or two in a sitting, and if you’re planning to buy some for the holidays it’s nice to buy one you know you love. The ticket price includes nibbles. Call 988-9232 for a reservation.

Are you already thinking about what you’re going to eat over the holidays? I am, of course. If you want to dine out I have some early ideas.

Coyote Café is open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with a $100 three-course menu. Highlights include stuffed rabbit with soft fig polenta; halibut cheeks with a vanilla crepe; Wagyu beef Wellington with fingerling potatoes cooked in duck fat and a foie gras Hollandaise. Dessert includes noche buena, a three-chocolate mirror cake with Ibarra ice cream and a strawberry Chambord compote.

That sounds pretty good! I'm a big fan of beef Wellington. Above is one I made a couple years ago with an oryx tenderloin, a chard shroud and a brioche wrapper. It was a helluva presentation, that's for sure. I can't remember for the life of me where I found that recipe, but I know Julia Child has a similar recipe using brioche in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And here's a version made with the simpler puff pastry.

Otherwise, Osteria d’Assisi is offering a three-course dinner Christmas Eve for $59. Choices include a yellow fin tuna tartare, blue point oysters on the half shell, salmon in smoked shrimp cream sauce and stuffed beef tenderloin with mushroom sauce and Brussels sprouts. Desserts include tiramisu, panettone alla Nutella and a Chimayó pumpkin mousse pie.

Inn of the Anasazi is serving Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but the eve looks better. The $110 menu includes a venison carpaccio with smoked egg yolk, caper berries, nasturtium and pearl onions; day boat scallops with quince mustard, potato chip, celery root and pork jowl; quail with spiced persimmon and Perigord truffle; and a beef tenderloin with radish, parsnip, veal breast, gremolata and blood orange. For dessert: a cranberry soufflé with cinnamon crème Anglaise and white chocolate.

Luminaria at the Inn and Spa at Loretto is doing a very English Christmas Eve dinner and a brunch on Christmas Day. The eve dinner involves an attractive choice of entrees: prime rib with Yorkshire pudding, Brussels sprouts and horseradish cream; jumbo scallops with butternut squash puree and asparagus with brown butter; or roasted duck and foie gras with forest mushroom cornbread stuffing and sautéed kale. It’s $80 per person or $110 with wine pairings.

La Casa Sena is open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with one menu that’s $85 per person or $105 with wine pairings. First course choices include duck liver pate with blood orange marmalade and toasted almond crostini; sea urchin with black trumpet mushroom risotto and truffle cream sauce; fried shishito peppers with kale and a blood orange-Sriracha cream sauce.

I’ll give you more ideas next week!

Meanwhile, I’m working on a story about cocktails that will come out right before the holidays and it focuses on local booze. What kind of drinks are you serving at your December events? I want to hear about them. Email

What news do you want to see in this newsletter? We want to hear from you! Let us know! Email

Morning Word: Dozens of Problems Could Stall WIPP Reopening

Morning WordThursday, December 8, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Feds Won’t Clear WIPP Reopening Until Improvements Made
Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant want to re-open the facility by the end of the month, but the feds say there are dozens of improvements still needed before they give the go-ahead. ‘ 
A review of WIPP’s readiness to operate, conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy on Dec. 2, found at least 36 problems that require correction in the underground storage caverns, the department announced. The plant can’t reopen until 21 of the problems have been addressed. Officials didn’t provide specifics on what the issues were, but among the known problems are a compromised ventilation system, repeated ceiling collapses, inadequate fire safety prevention and radiological contamination from a waste drum that burst nearly three years ago. 
Santa Fe Schools Need Improvement
Speaking of needed improvements, Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García says even the district’s “world-class schools” have their work cut out for them, especially boosting math proficiencies, which are below 10 percent.

Student Sanctuary Approved
Meanwhile, school board members in Santa Fe voted to create the state’s first sanctuary school district. 
The move comes as cities, colleges and universities around the nation are contemplating similar, largely symbolic, actions showing support for undocumented immigrants following Donald Trump’s victory last month in the presidential election. Trump has proposed several policies to crack down on immigrants living in the country illegally, and many communities have seen an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment since the election. 
Trump’s Time
Speaking of Trump, Time magazine picked him to be their Man of the Year after he disrupted the political establishment to claim the White House.

Udall a No-Go for Governor
With Trump gearing up to run the country for the next four years, US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, says he can be more effective in Washington and the senior senator has opted not to run for governor in 2018.
The decision by one of the state’s most powerful politicians creates a wide open field in the 2018 Democratic primary race to replace Gov. Susana Martinez, who is term-limited from running again. U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, NM Attorney General Hector Balderas, and Alan Webber — who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014 and today runs the think tank One New Mexico — are among the Democrats considering running for governor.
State Economy Tanks
While the stock market is booming and investors seems confident Trump will be good for business and the nation’s economy, New Mexico's own economy is still tanking, dragged down by the depressed oil and gas industry.
The state’s gross domestic product fell by 0.2 percent during the second quarter, making it one of eight states that saw GDP decreases, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. It was the third consecutive quarter in which New Mexico had negative GDP growth.
PNM Wants More Moola
The Public Service Company of New Mexico is headed back to the Public Regulation Commission to request another double-digit rate hike just two months after the investor-owned utility boosted everyone’s electric bills.

Pearce Disappointed by VA Medical Centers' Ratings
The El Paso and Albuquerque Veterans Affairs medical centers only scored one of five stars and are two of the lowest-ranked systems in the country as of June 30.
“Unfortunately this is what we, in New Mexico, have come to expect from the VA. Since entering Congress in 2003, I have fought to bring to light the substandard quality of care and to improve service for all veterans. I look forward to working with the Trump administration so that our nation’s veterans are provided the benefits they were promised and deserve,” Congressman Steve Pearce, R-Hobbs, said in a statement.

Muddle Through Somehow

Brighten the holidays for kids in the state's foster care system

Local NewsWednesday, December 7, 2016 by Charlotte Jusinski

While out running errands last Friday, I stopped by La Montanita Co-op (913 W Alameda St., 984-2852) for expensive chocolate and organic milk. You know, the usual "money's tight " shopping list. While checking out, I saw behind the registers a sight that's a little too common around the holidays: a tree covered in paper ornaments, each with a child's name and Christmas wish.

The kids' names come from the state's Children, Youth and Families Department, and most belong to kids who are in state custody (as in, foster care). They have been removed from their parents' homes due to abuse and neglect. Some are also kids in "high-risk families" who are on the edge of entering the system. Social workers assigned to the kids' cases conduct regular home visits, and on one of those visits, the social worker will sit down with the child and ask what they'd like.

CYFD has been running the program for "six to eight years," according to Matt Esquibel, the county office manager at CYFD, leader of the toy drive that whole time. This year has seen the most ornaments ever.

Shopping bags in hand, I stopped by the tree to take a look. I fancy myself pretty buoyant, generally unflappable (in public at least), pan-optimistic. But the names and wishes on the ornaments, not to mention the number of ornaments, left me breathless.

Esquibel says that this year there has been a dramatic increase in the number of kids needing help. Last year, he says, there were about 30 kids needing gifts. This year, the number shot to 70. "More kids are coming into custody, statewide," he says. "We're seeing a lot of abuse and neglect."

Gifts are needed for everyone from 6-month-old babies to 17-year-old boys. A 12-year-old girl would like earbuds. A 15-year-old boy would like Denver Broncos swag or a pair of K-Swiss sneakers. Babies without Christmas gifts are sad, of course, but what really tugged at me were the pre-teens and teenagers. It wasn't that long ago that I was in high school, trying desperately to be cool, never quite making it—and I had the benefit of a great family and a solid financial footing. How hard must it be for those without the leg up?

After sifting through the branches, I finally chose an ornament for an 18-month-old boy named Diego. He wanted clothes (well, at least someone wanted clothes for him), cars and trucks, or an Elmo doll.

I left La Montanita in the dark and headed to Target. A couple shirts, a pair of pants and a pair of toddler sneakers found their way into my basket. But that would be lame, to just give practical gifts, right? I thought of Diego getting his gift of clothes and having nothing to play with. Nope. To the toy aisle. I found bulbous little cars made for tiny hands, outfitted with flashing lights and happy songs.

Parents with means would sweep a whole shelf of toys into the cart for their kid. I thought of my own closets at home, stuffed full of clothes that I hardly wear. I thought of all the ornaments I didn't take. One kid wanted a Frozen doll, another wanted a Doc McStuffins something-or-other. Should I go back and get more? I can't. My wallet can't. But I felt like I should. I wished everyone would. I was tearing up in the Target toy aisle. Time to go.

The toys need to be back at La Montanita by Dec. 12, and the CYFD holiday party happens this year on Dec. 16. The gifts are distributed at the party. (Gifts that come in after the deadline, or after the party, will be delivered to the kids at home by their social worker.)

I asked Esquibel what happens if not all the ornaments are taken. He said that CYFD makes sure every kid gets at least two gifts, and that other agencies —the Santa Fe Police Department, for example, and some fire departments—also contribute toys and gifts for kids whose ornaments stayed behind.

We all like to think, if we were in these kids' shoes, we'd appreciate anything we were to get. But let's be real. The fire department is unlikely to have a brand-new pair of K-Swiss sneakers in that one teenage boy's size. If no one picks his ornament, he won't get precisely what he wants. (Wants? Well, I guess, technically, they "want" their gifts. But could there be a threshold we cross where even "wants" become "needs?")

I came home from Target and wrapped each item in gold tissue paper. I fought the urge to go back to La Montanita and get another ornament. I Instagrammed the bag, hoping my friends would go get ornaments of their own. And we'll all muddle through somehow, but hopefully one kid's Christmas will be a little more merry.

Morning Word: New Mexico Badly Managed

Morning WordWednesday, December 7, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
"Worst-Run State"
For the second year in a row, 24/7 Wall St. ranked New Mexico, with its high poverty and unemployment rates, as the worst-run state in the country.

Smith Urges Bipartisanship in New Year
Ahead of New Years, Sen. John Arthur Smith, the chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, wants lawmakers to resolve to work together “to solve this budget crisis and put New Mexico on sound financial footing for the future.”
New Mexico has never been a state of luxury or indulgence. With the politically influenced special session resulting in only band-aid solutions and with no way to solve these problems quickly, lawmakers will be forced to scramble through another solvency plan during the regular legislative session in January.
500 Jobs on the Line at UNM Hospital
The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center chancellor told state lawmakers Tuesday that budget cuts will likely lead to the elimination of 500 positions, including 33 doctors, 174 nurses, 167 hospital staffers and 132 academic positions, at the state’s leading health care system. The reduction will probably not include layoffs, and will instead be accomplished by eliminating planned staff expansions.
"This is more than just doctors and nurses losing their jobs,” [Dr. Paul Roth] said. “People may be losing their lives. Our kids are not going to receive the quality of medical care they need. Our parents may not have access to health care.”
Congressional Panel’s Tactics Scrutinized
Joey Peters reports, “A controversial congressional panel investigating abortion practices in New Mexico and the across the country is under scrutiny for its tactics and mission from some of its own members.”
In a report released this week titled “Setting the Record Straight: The Unjustifiable Attack on Women’s Health Care and Life-Saving Research,” Democratic members of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives skewered the majority in the committee for using "McCarthy-era tactics" to conduct "an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care."
A special report released Tuesday by State Auditor Tim Keller reveals that New Mexico, with 254 per 100,000, has the highest number of untested rape kits per capita in the nation.

Teacher Job Vacancies Increase
There’s a good chance your public school student is being taught by a long-term substitute teacher this year. A new report from New Mexico State University’s Education Department shows the number of teachers retiring early has increased and that’s led to hundreds of vacant teacher positions.
Researchers looked at vacancy data from all 89 public school districts in the state through mid-October and found nearly 600 open positions. While the majority of those were teaching jobs, the report also found vacancies for counselors, social workers, speech therapists and administrators.
NMSU Won’t Be Sanctuary Campus
New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carrthuers says the school will not declare itself a sanctuary campus or ban federal law enforcement officials from campus despite a petition being circulated by students and faculty. Heath Haussamen reports:
In a Friday memo to employees and students, Carruthers wrote that NMSU aims to be diverse and inclusive and has several policies in place that aid that goal. NMSU doesn’t require proof of citizenship for admission or discriminate on the basis of immigration status. The university doesn’t disclose student information without consent or unless required by law. NMSU offers in-state tuition and state-funded financial aid to “qualifying undocumented students” and discounted tuition to students from Mexico.

Associate English professor Elizabeth Schirmer said in a news release that SOS appreciates Carruthers’ “affirmation of NMSU’s commitment to diversity.” But the university needs to do more, she said.
Santa Fe Opera Recording Earns Grammy Nominations
This is very cool: The Santa Fe Opera has clinched Grammy nominations for the first time in its 60-year history for a recording of Cold Mountain in 2015.
“This is a very happy day for us,” said Santa Fe Opera’s general director Charles MacKay, reached by phone in Chicago. “It is a tribute not only to the leading singers, Isabel Leonard and Nathan Gunn, but really to the whole wonderful ensemble, the apprentices who made up the chorus, and of course our magnificent orchestra.”

Ruffled by Raffles

With the pending sale of SFUAD delayed, students are still mostly in the dark

Local NewsWednesday, December 7, 2016 by Kim Jones

Writers feverishly revise their final portfolios, photographers scour their surroundings for mid-day standalones and theater majors prepare for upcoming shows. The semester at Santa Fe University of Art and Design is trudging towards an end, but the future of the college remains unclear.

Laureate Education, a multinational private education corporation, announced plans this spring to sell the college to Raffles Education, a Singapore-based company which has a portfolio of 26 institutions, mostly art and design schools in Asia. The pending sale, however, is moving more slowly than initially predicted.

Students tell SFR they are nervous over the uncertainty surrounding the transition. Will my degree be legitimate? Will I be taken seriously by future employers? Am I wasting my time and money?

Others are hopeful. Some are unaware. Most are suspicious.

Interim President Maria Puzziferro wrote a statement released on Dec. 1 reassuring students that Laureate and Raffles “remain committed to this process” and that the school’s accreditation through 2026 will not be impacted by the delayed change in control. The Higher Learning Commission, a regional accrediting agency, won’t make a decision about the proposal until at least February, she wrote.

Students say they’re not getting the message. Some told SFR they did not see the emailed notice from Puzziferro until a faculty member posted it on a private Facebook group.

Puzziferro tells SFR that “technical difficulties” kept some information from reaching students as intended. Her office sent two emails to students and faculty shortly after the Thanksgiving break and only later learned many of the intended recipients had not received them.

She says she is looking forward to Raffles and what it will bring to SFUAD. “Raffles really is a leader in global art and design education,” says Puzziferro. “Raffles opens up a lot of possibilities for students to study abroad; the potential is just unlimited.”

Questions about whether students at the school would continue to qualify for financial aid are part of the change in control process, she explains, and if Raffles can’t enable students to earn federal financial aid, the sale won’t be approved.

Asked about an earlier SFR report that focused on Raffles’ problems in other countries, including in Vietnam, where the school faced sanctions over offering degrees despite only having authorization to issue vocational diplomas, she says she’s not concerned.

“You have to be careful, especially in understanding Raffles’ history with other schools, in countries where we don’t understand their regulatory environment,” she says.

Puzziferro says SFUAD’s accreditation will remain in good standing regardless of whether the sale goes through and she is working with SFUAD’s spokeswoman, Rachael Lighty, to organize a forum in early January to communicate with students.

"I learn information about a school I pay so much for from local newspapers and friends. "
       -Alison Gamache, student

That would be welcome to senior creative writing major Alison Gamache.

“I have not received one email about what the hell is going on,” Gamache tells SFR. “I learn information about a school I pay so much for from local newspapers and friends.”

But not everyone is pessimistic about the proposed change. Nicholas Thomas, president of Student Voice, a campus advocacy group, says Raffles is a better fit to run SFUAD than Laureate, the Baltimore-based company that doesn’t typically operate arts schools. Thomas tells SFR he’s frustrated with the rumors SFUAD will lose its accreditation under new ownership.

He notes that the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting agency, wouldn’t approve the sale if it would threaten students’ degrees. “We aren’t going to lose our accreditation,” Thomas says. “Not gonna happen.”

Junior contemporary music program major Joseph Gordon says he’s been annoyed with Laureate’s lack of investment in his personal educational priorities. He hopes Raffles will spend big bucks on new music equipment.

Gordon wants a career in music technology—mixing, editing and recording—but it’s not a major offered at SFUAD.

“I hope that Raffles, a very rich corporation, will put a lot of money into the infrastructure of our school,” says Gordon. “We can’t even have some classes because all of our technology is breaking.”

Another music major, sophomore flutist Sammi Gilbert, is hopeful for the future but wary of the administration’s miscommunication. Early on, she says, representatives from Raffles seemed to be responsive to what students want.

“I’m optimistic about the future of the school,” resident advisor and student life advocate Emily Curley tells SFR. Curley is a junior technical theater major in the performing arts department with a specialization in sound design. Although Curley is pleased with her program, she wants a course specific to sound design and hopes Raffles can provide that for the technical theater department now and in the future.

“I don’t feel like the changes will occur while I’m here. … I’m really close to graduating and don’t expect changes within a year,” Curley says. She prefers the Higher Learning Commission, Raffles and Laureate take their time ensuring a positive future for the school.

Santa Fe city officials in September met with representatives from SFUAD and Raffles, as well as the Higher Learning Commission. Mayor Javier Gonzales did not attend.

In a letter to the accrediting agency’s executive vice president for governmental affairs, however, Gonzales wrote, “Especially at this critical time, as we launch plans to redevelop the St. Michael’s Avenue [sic] corridor at the geographic heart of this community and with SFUAD as its western anchor, losing this partnership would be a significant step backward, for the young people we serve and the community as a whole.”

SFR reported in October that Raffles failed to follow education regulations in at least three countries, leaving students with degrees that are unrecognized in their own countries. Laureate has its own legal issues, including a recently settled lawsuit claiming that the company stretched out the degree process, forcing students to pay more money.

Kim Jones is a junior at SFUAD who is interning in the SFR newsroom.

From Jail to Grave

Woman’s death after detention prompts civil rights lawsuit

Local NewsWednesday, December 7, 2016 by Steven Hsieh

Breanna Vasquez died of spinal meningitis at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center on November 11, 2014, two days after becoming unresponsive at the county jail. The Santa Fe woman was 22.

Now, Vasquez’ family is suing the city Police Department for her death, saying officers who arrested her on a warrant should have taken her to the hospital before booking her at the Adult Detention Center.

According to the civil rights lawsuit filed last month, Vasquez’ mother warned officers that her daughter had just been released from the hospital the night before they arrested her for violating probation on misdemeanor charges.

Santa Fe police officers Michael Dimas and Lukas Wakefield executed a warrant at 8:42 am at Vasquez’s home. At the time of her arrest, Vasquez showed obvious signs of illness, according to the lawsuit. She was still wearing her hospital bracelet.

Before taking Vasquez to jail, the two officers assured her family that guards would safely monitor Vasquez until her release, according to the lawsuit. Her bond was set at $2,360.

“The poor girl sat in jail for a long time,” says Doug Perrin, one of the family’s attorneys.

The lawsuit claims the Santa Fe Police Department and two unnamed officials “breached their duty to properly train and supervise” Dimas and Wakefield. The complaint also names the two individual officers for acting “with deliberate indifference” to Vasquez’ civil rights, under the Fourth, Eighth and 14th Amendments.

“Despite knowledge of her medical condition requiring treatment, Officers Dimas and Wakefield did not provide medical treatment, took no steps to secure medical treatment and did not transport Ms. Vasquez to the hospital for medical clearance before incarceration,” the lawsuit states.

Both Dimas and Wakefield still work for the department and are in good standing, according to police spokesman Greg Gurulé. The city attorney’s office did not respond to an inquiry about the case.

The pending US District Court lawsuit against the city follows a $400,000 settlement agreement entered in April between Vasquez’ family and Santa Fe County, the entity that operates the jail. A tort claims notice alleged a jail supervisor failed to provide medical attention to Vasquez before she became unresponsive.

Her death occurred amid a rash of deaths during or after stays at county-run correctional facilities. Months before, 17-year-old Desiree Gonzales overdosed at the Youth Development Program, the juvenile lockup, shortly after being discharged from Christus St. Vincent.

An ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit says jail administrators booked Gonzales despite her showing signs of withdrawal, and that medical staff ignored her as she struggled to breathe. The lawsuit also claims the hospital acted negligently by discharging the teen too early.

Another inmate, Thomas Pederson, died of heart complications last year at the adult jail three days after he was arrested for driving with a blood alcohol level six times the legal limit.

So Long, Farewell

The world has changed. Do we mourn? Or love what’s still here?

FeaturesWednesday, December 7, 2016 by Laura Paskus

It’s a crisp, late fall morning in Santa Fe. Larry Rasmussen, a Lutheran lay minister, and I sit side-by-side at his kitchen table. Sometimes we look at one another. But mostly we both look out the picture window. The sky is an iconic cerulean blue, and songbirds flit about the backyard: Birdfeeder to fence post to birdfeeder and hop, hop, around and around again.

More than a decade ago, Rasmussen retired from New York City’s Union Theological Seminary. He and his wife now live off Old Pecos Trail. From this window, they can watch a forest in transition.

Nowadays, that’s how we talk about trees that are dying. Trees that smell like vanilla when you press your face close in warm sunlight. Trees whose sticks and split trunks have been fed for generations into cooking fires and wood stoves. The juniper and piñon wood smoke that wafts through cities and towns today is the same that’s filled the air since Pueblo people settled along the Rio Grande centuries ago.

As the world keeps warming, not all those species will survive. Scientists keep saying this, and even drive-by tourists can see the waves of young oak trees spreading across burned slopes that conifers once dominated. I can’t help but wonder how differently the land will smell when our children’s children inhale; I can’t help but wonder if they’ll ache for something they don’t know is missing.

Scientists say southwestern pine forests will disappear by 2100. Hotter, larger wildfires are partly to blame.
Laura Paskus

“What do you do with your grief? What do you do with your loss?” Rasmussen asks. “What do we do with species going extinct? What do we do with nude mountains?” We both look out the window again. He’s talking about a wildfire that ripped through the Jemez Mountains a few years earlier.

When the fire ignited on a Sunday in late June, a massive cloud erupted like a thunderhead into the sky above the mountains. Visible more than 50 miles away, that trickster cloud fooled me into thinking the summer’s monsoon season had arrived. In an Albuquerque driveway, my young daughter and I looked north and cheered for the blessing of rain in the dry mountains.

I was wrong.

Rather, there was a fire burning so hot that it had created its own weather above the mountains. When heat rises so fast that winds can’t push the air away, wildfires form a cloud—what’s called a pyrocumulous cloud.

From a distance these sometimes look like mushroom clouds. And they put firefighters, and anyone nearby, in danger. If the columns collapse, the falling air hits the ground and then spreads wildly, pushing the fire in new directions.

Through their Santa Fe kitchen window, Rasmussen and his wife, Nyla, watched the mountains burn. At night, the hulk of the mountains—normally just a crouching dark blankness swallowing the pinpoints of stars—flamed orange.

It’s not that Southwestern forests aren’t supposed to burn. But this fire was different. In its first 14 hours, the Las Conchas fire burned through about one acre a second.

Close your eyes and count to 10. During that time, flames devoured 10 acres. Think of the ponderosa pines and Steller’s jay nests, fox burrows and salamanders obliterated in the time it takes to draw and exhale two breaths.

All told, the fire burned 156,000 acres the summer of 2011.

That was the state’s largest wildfire in recorded history. Until the next year when the Whitewater-Badly Fire burned nearly twice that amount, 297,000 acres, of the Gila National Forest.

In our warmer world, ponderosa pine stands don’t necessarily come back. Instead, they give way to Gambel oak and New Mexico locust. Piñon and juniper trees die off, their hard carcasses thronged by wavy leaf oak and mountain mahogany.

Scientists say Southwestern pine forests will disappear by 2100, and that half the conifers in the Northern Hemisphere will have died by then.

How do we mourn nude mountains?

At my father’s funeral more than three years ago, I realized how much I missed those ceremonies we wrap ourselves in during times of grief or confusion.

At the time, I was 39 years old and had lived more than 2,000 miles from my parents for nearly 20 years. But I’d never been to a funeral without my father. I’d never watched the casket enter a church or sat through a eulogy without placing my hand inside his. Even if we’d argued on our way to the church, I’d position myself next to him during the service, then hang around him and his pals—fellow cops, oftentimes—during the meal afterwards. They’d stand around outside. Tug loose their ties and insult one another. Another ritual.

Is there a way to mourn a river, too?

The Rio Grande runs dry every year when agricultural irrigators divert water.
Laura Paskus

Two decades ago, two US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists sat behind their office in Albuquerque. Surrounded by boats, trailers, tanks, waders, and all the accoutrements of fisheries biologists, they realized the fate of an entire species rested with them.

"Is there a way to mourn a river, too?"

Historically, the silvery minnow had lived throughout the Rio Grande and its tributary, the Pecos River. About 2,400 miles of habitat. By the time it was protected under the Endangered Species Act, the minnow survived only in a 174-mile stretch of the Rio Grande.

Like many species, the minnow’s demise was linked to human cleverness. In the 20th century, people had tamed, tapped, and engineered the Pecos and the Rio Grande to prevent flooding and deliver water. Their work was so effective that watersheds and riverbeds bowed before miraculous engineering feats. Ecosystems changed. Species disappeared.

The silvery minnow loses habitat every year.
Laura Paskus
Feeling the tug of moral responsibility for an entire species, the two men convinced their bosses to let them try something different. They started collecting eggs from the river and then raising the fish in a hatchery.

They did that because New Mexico’s largest river could no longer keep a two-inch long fish from going extinct.

Today, the river still dries. And the wild fish population declines.

What do you do with your grief?

At the end of my father’s wake, no one rushes me. Friends and family and police officers look away. They’re ready to walk with the casket from the wake to the church.

But I’m not ready to leave the casket. Not ready for the lid to seal shut. I kneel, pressing my head against the cool metal, and then recoiling at the smell of rot and chemicals.

By the time the pallbearers carry the flag-draped coffin up the steps and into the church, I’ve lost track of whether he’s head or feet first. Incense. Words. Stained glass windows and gold on the altar.

From the church’s front pew, I stumble to the altar in heels and a dark-colored dress, then choke through a reading. At the cemetery, uniformed men and women fire the requisite number of rifle shots. Someone hands my mother the folded American flag. The ancient driver of the hearse blows into a trumpet. In the back of the limousine, I hold my brother’s hand.

For months afterwards, I wonder about decomposition. I imagine that the blue eyes I passed along to my daughter no longer exist within his face. The lips and mouth that look like mine are surely gone. His hand must be desiccated by now.

I keep the rifle shells in a wooden box. But I still don’t know where to put my grief.

Back in Albuquerque, I visit with a biology professor at the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico. I’m curious about the Latin American hummingbirds whose evolution he studies.

After talk of jungle mountains, lungs and tiny hearts, Christopher Witt walks me to the back of the museum and slides open a wide, shallow drawer.

There are passenger pigeons, Carolina parakeets, Ivory-billed woodpeckers, dusky seaside sparrows and Eskimo curlew.

They have no descendants somewhere, preening or molting, blinking their eyes against the rain or singing a morning song. These species are all extinct.

Taxidermied threatened Mexican spotted owls lie next to their extinct cousins in the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico.
Laura Paskus

Another drawer holds a tray of threatened Mexican spotted owls, their downy white eyelids closed. There are also boxes of Northern aplomado falcons, which were nearly extirpated from the United States by the 1950s. I peer at the tag tied to one falcon’s foot: “Falco Femoralis Septentrionalis. Fort Bayard, New Mexico.” Collected by F Stephens on August 8, 1875.

My eyes water and I look down in shame. I jot notes I can’t actually read. How do you mourn a drawer full of birds?

My father has been dead two years when I return to Connecticut for three summer weeks. After living for almost 20 years in the Southwest, I scoff at the green. The trees crowd out my necessary horizon; I anticipate ticks. But I love getting to know my cousin’s children. I’m secretly pleased when my daughter, brazen like I never was, mouths off to me, then runs into the backyard with her kin.

In the woods beyond my mother’s house, my childhood fort is gone. It’s not that someone scattered the brush and stones and pieces of metal I’d collected and piled. The hillside is gone.

More than a decade ago, a developer blasted the mica-flecked bedrock. When he ran out of money, he abandoned the subdivision. And a backhoe. Now, water fills empty foundations. There are cattails and frogs that disappear in a croaky ripple. An old Christmas tree lies across the road; televisions and suitcases flank it. I poke assorted weird shit with a stick.

Beyond the mess, the forest is thicker than it was decades ago. There are foxes and turkeys, deer and species of birds I don’t remember seeing when I ran around the woods as a kid, tracing stone walls, forever hopeful I’d discover a gateway into another world. That other world might be magical, it might be sinister. Either way, I was ready, pocket knife filched from my dad’s collection.

During one of those last summer nights in Connecticut, I stare up at the stars around the edges of the trees and hear a sound that’s familiar to me only from the West.

Coyotes. At first I think I’m dreaming. I hold my breath and listen. The syncopated stutters carry across the forest from a hillslope away. Past the road cut and powerlines.

When I first started writing about climate change, maybe a decade ago, a scientist told me I shouldn’t worry for the planet. It’s humans who will suffer, he said. The Earth will remain. Species will blink out, evolve, or emerge. Ecosystems will shift. The same geological processes that have been churning the Earth for eons will still shape tomorrow’s landscapes.

The selfish grief I felt over losing my father, and any chance he and I had for understanding one another, has dissipated. In its place, a fiercer love has emerged. For my daughter and my mother. My brother and his family; dear friends and ready allies. For the world we still have. Looking back, I realize that I twisted nostalgia and hope into inaction and despair.

A door has opened on a new world that awaits our children.
Laura Paskus

Perhaps healing requires grief and mourning. But both those emotions seem like indulgences. And there’s no time for that.

So instead, I wonder about the coming world. Which trees will grow, which birds will have survived. The meaning of shifting cloud formations. I wonder what the world will smell like. Because now, even though it’s been decades since I stopped looking for that gateway in earnest, the door to that new world has opened. And there’s no going back.

Laura Paskus is an independent journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Earlier this year, she completed a year-long reporting project on climate change for New Mexico In Depth.

SFR Picks | Cinema Paradiso

The Santa Fe Film Festival gets rolling tonight

PicksWednesday, December 7, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

Though we have access to numerous film festivals here in Santa Fe, two big ones stand out above the rest. And with the Independent Film Festival behind us (and quite a success from what we hear), it’s time to gear up for the original Santa Fe Film Festival (SFFF), now entering its 16th year. For five solid days, SFFF will take over the Jean Cocteau Cinema, The Screen at Santa Fe University of Art & Design and the Center For Contemporary Arts’ Cinematheque to screen well over 150 full-length, short, indie and documentary films created all over the globe and representing all styles and genres. “One thing I wanted to add to the fest this year was a line of action-sport films,” creative director Rich Henrich tells SFR. “We’ve also got a spotlight on Latin American films and documentaries, we’ve got Native films, and we also tried to include programming that was maybe a little lighter … like comedies. … We’re continuing that line of showing top-tier films.” SFFF also boasts a number of parties, a Canyon Road arts crawl led by a mariachi band, numerous panels and workshops and an art opening from artist Grant Kosh of lifelike airbrush portraits featuring famous faces from throughout the history of film. (That’s on Wednesday evening at Gerard Vachez Gallery, 418 Montezuma Ave.)

Basically, there’s something for everyone—even people who hear the term “film festival” and picture some snooty, artsy affair accessible only to film snobs and jerks in top hats.

“One of the challenges we’ve had is to create programs that are diverse enough so that everybody has something that’s going to fit their individual cinematic tastes,” Henrich adds. Nearly 80 percent of the filmmakers behind the movies will be on hand as well to discuss their works, and individual screenings are completely affordable. Flip to page 31 for some reviews of films showing during the fest. The five days kick off with a party at Cowgirl tonight (9 pm, $10. 319 S. Guadalupe St.) featuring live music from Golden General and Felecia Ford. (Alex De Vore)

Santa Fe Film Festival
Wednesday-Sunday, Dec. 7-11. $10-$299.
Various locations;
visit for complete listings.

Queer as Film

Courtesy Jean Cocteau Cinema
The Santa Fe Film Festival (SFFF)—which just so happens to be running as we speak—presents eight micro-documentaries from indie filmmakers that explore the experiences of LGBTQ people from around the world in Queer Lives. The shorts showcase woes and wins in the day-to-day for gay men, lesbians, and those who identify as trans or gender non-conforming, as well as people of color. “These are ordinary LGBTQ citizens—by ordinary, I mean, not celebrities,” says SFFF programmer Aaron Leventman. “There are many different pockets of queer communities that we don’t think of.” And we need to. (Kim Jones)

Queer Lives Shorts:
7 pm Friday Dec. 9. $10.
Jean Cocteau Cinema,
418 Montezuma Ave.,

American Love Story: Motel

Steve Fitch

Romance is alive on the two-lane highways that meander through the rolling hills and empty deserts of America. There is nothing so satisfying as taking off on the open road, and part of that nostalgic glory lives in the vintage paint and light bulbs of motel signs. Photographer Steve Fitch banks on your attachment to the iconography of Americana in his solo exhibit, American Motel Signs, 1980-2008. Featuring photographs taken around the country, each image includes regional differences (like palm trees or tall cacti) that orient the viewer in the space of our vast nation. (Maria Egolf-Romero)

American Motel Signs, 1980-2008:
3-5 pm Saturday Dec 10. Free.
photo-eye Bookstore and Project Space,
376 Garcia St.,

Book ‘Em

Most people don’t immediately click to the concept of book clubs when they picture an afternoon visit to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, but that’s going to change thanks to Adult Education Coordinator Shawna Jones. “We actually have this super-awesome library and the biggest collection of botanical books in Santa Fe,” Jones says. ”And it’s not just going to be books about how to garden.” The current title up for discussion is Simon Winchester’s The Map That Changed the World, the real-life story of an 18th-century canal digger who discovered how to chart the innards of the earth. Woah, right? Right. (ADV)

Botanical Book Club:
1 pm Tuesday Dec. 13. Free.
Santa Fe Botanical Garden office,
715 Camino Lejo,

Climbing Higher

Nonprofit launches to expand the reach and benefits of climbing to underserved communities

The EnthusiastWednesday, December 7, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

Amanda Burkybile saw first in her children that rock climbing wasn’t just a way to burn some energy, but that it taught them to focus, set goals and work hard, even to communicate—all in ways that few activities inspire.

“You can see immediately how kids are drawn to climbing—they’re little monkeys,” she says. “They want to climb on everything, so if you can give it to them in a venue where it’s actually appropriate and teach them how to be safe about it, and address their risk-taking in a positive way … you can just see them flourish.”

On a Wednesday afternoon, she gently coaxes her 3-year-old daughter as she stretches her fingers from one plastic hold to the next in the new building for the Santa Fe Climbing Center (3008 Cielo Court, 986-8944), which Burkybile’s husband, Andre Wiltenburg, owns.

Their 3-year-old is one of about 10 kids at the gym, lining up to for a belay from their adult coaches on the climbing wall and swiftly ascending a free-standing boulder.

“I like it because I can have fun,” says 7-year-old Zoey Davis, who says she started climbing when she was 4 and now climbs with the gym’s kids program once a week. “I can hang out with friends, and make new friends.”

Her coach, Rich Strang, helps her tie the rope to her harness, and she turns and clambers up a route with a small overhang.

“It’s a good sport for them—it keeps them busy,” Strang says. “It gives them good problem-solving and discipline to figure out the move and fight fears.”

These kids are all part of preschool climbing classes and recreational climbing teams, but for years, Burkybile and Wiltenburg have been talking about how to reach people who might not immediately think to try climbing. With the new facility open, now seemed as good a time as any for Burkybile to launch Elevate Santa Fe, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing and diversifying the opportunities for people to participate in rock climbing.

“We’re trying to make it reality for some people who would like the opportunity but would not necessarily be able to get there or afford it on their own,” she says.

The goal isn’t to recruit lifelong climbers as much as it is to spark curiosity and exploration.

“Rock climbing is just the vehicle to deliver the opportunities to people and to provide encouragement, to show people they can do things that maybe they didn’t think they could do before,” she says. “It’s more about saying, ‘Try this. You might like it,’ and if this isn’t your thing, maybe you have the courage to try something else that you’re thinking about.”

Kids are the first group they aim to work with, though veterans and adaptive athletes are on the list as well. They’re aiming to start a three-week-long pilot program early next year for elementary school kids. A former teacher herself, Burkybile’s goal is to take care of all the logistics and the expense, so teachers only need to make themselves and their students’ time available. Gear and instructor time, among other expenses, costs about $50 per student, so she’s fundraising to provide these free for students.

Research shows that, beyond the health benefits that can alleviate childhood obesity and diabetes, regular physical activity reduces anxiety and depression for children, and has been correlated to better concentration in the short term and improved skills in mathematics, reading and writing.

They’re starting with third-graders in part because that’s the age at which standardized testing begins to ramp up; this program, Burkybile contends, offers not just a different focus, but a means to progress mentally, physically and socially.

“It’s not a multiple choice test measuring their worth based on their score on this thing graded by a computer,” she says. “It’s just a whole other way of encouraging kids to grow and showing them that you can’t always see your growth on a piece of paper. Sometimes it’s in how you feel.”

In climbing, sometimes that can mean one more hold, or just getting off the ground for the first time; each step, each gain, shows they’re getting better, and getting stronger, and that now is not the time to give up.

For more information, visit

The Enthusiast is a twice-monthly column dedicated to the people in and stories from our outdoor sports community. Send feedback and story ideas to

Morning Word: State Police Plan Job Cuts

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