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Right to Die Gets Debated

Physician-assisted deaths case heads to New Mexico Supreme Court

Local NewsTuesday, September 1, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

The “aid in dying” case to allow a physician to aid terminally ill patients in choosing to end their own lives will be heard in New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday, Oct. 26, a court spokesman says today. 

A district court judge ruled in January 2014 that allowing such aid to the dying was a fundamental liberty, and physicians providing lethal doses of prescribed medications at the request of a mentally competent patient should be excluded from existing statute that makes assisting suicide a fourth degree felony. On Aug. 11, the New Mexico Court of Appeals overturned that decision. 

“We conclude that aid in dying is not a fundamental liberty interest under the New Mexico Constitution,” the appeals court opinion reads. Palliative sedation—administering such high levels of conscious-lowering medications that the patient not only goes into a coma but is likely to die shortly after—and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments are both accepted medical procedures in the state. 

New Mexico would follow Oregon, Washington, Montana, Hawaii and Vermont in allowing such procedures. Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Rhode Island and California have declared the procedure illegal.

Aja Riggs, a Santa Fe resident with uterine cancer, is also listed as a plaintiff, and testified to the Appeals Court that she hoped to have the option of aid in dying as a means of avoiding spending her final days bedridden, in pain and mostly unconscious.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court to expedite review of the case

“The Court of Appeals’ Opinion takes away a fundamental right from terminally ill patients,” Laura Schauer Ives, cooperating attorney with ACLU-NM, said in a press release. “Without a speedy, definitive resolution to this matter, terminally ill New Mexicans risk becoming trapped in a dying process they find unbearable; they deserve better.”

Along with their petition they filed statements from terminally ill patients who support the case, an Albuquerque woman who watched her mother labor through final months of her life unable to tend to her own most basic needs and in tremendous pain. After her own fight with cancer and receiving a diagnosis of six months to live in July, Susan Brown wants to have the option to choose death on her own terms, in the event her own pain becomes unbearable. 

Santa Fe artist David Bradley was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), which often ends in nervous system and muscle weakness so profound the diaphragm and lungs stop working and suffocation follows.

“One of my worst fears is ending up in a hospital, nearly a vegetable, with all kinds of tubes in me keeping me alive against my wishes while my family stands by in anguish,” he wrote in his statement given to the ACLU. “As an independent artist, I have always lived my life on my own terms guided by my strong principles.  I want that to be true in my final days as well. When I die, I want to experience a peaceful death, at home, surrounded by my loved ones.”

Morning Word: Impeachment Talk Builds

Secretary of State Dianna Duran expected to plead not guilty

Morning WordTuesday, September 1, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Talk of Impeachment
Secretary of State Dianna Duran is under pressure to consider resigning now that she’s been indicted for allegedly gambling away hundreds of thousands of campaign donations. Her attorney says she plans to plead not guilty to the charges. Duran is the third secretary of state in a row to be investigated for financial missteps.

City Election Beat
Santa Fe’s city election isn’t until next March, but candidates are already lining up to challenge incumbent city councilors.

Two Is Better than One
After another summer of controversies, some people are calling for the state’s largest school district to be divided into at least two districts.

Resignation Not a Surprise
Still intact, the Albuquerque Public Schools board named an interim superintendent after Luis Valentino submitted his resignation on Monday, but not everyone is happy they agreed to pay Valentino for a year of his contract now that he’s leaving just a few months after he started. So far, it doesn’t look like any of Santa Fe’s top school officials are considering jumping at the opportunity to replace Valentino, including Almundena “Almi” Abeyta, the district’s deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, who was one of three finalists for the job in April.

Pot Greenhouse Gets Go-Ahead
Torrance County Commissioners have given the green light to construction of a medical cannabis greenhouse, despite some residents’ objections.

Almost Fall
It’s almost time to light up Zozobra up and burn away your worries. It's also the time of year when we start seeing UFOs in our state’s skies.

Caboose Won't Vamoose

Keep Santa Fe Beautiful working on 25-year agreement to keep caboose in city

Local NewsTuesday, September 1, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Rick Martinez, the chairman of the board of Keep Santa Fe Beautiful, is in the midst of working out an agreement with the city that would keep a much-coveted caboose in Santa Fe for the next 25 years.

It’s a sudden turn in events, considering the old caboose that sits at the corner of St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road was put up for sale a month ago for $17,000. But within days of the announcement by its owner, Santa Fe Southern Railway, people pitched in enough money to buy it, and Martinez managed to get the sellers to reduce the asking price to $14,000.

Martinez was instrumental in spiffing up the treasured icon a few years ago and now tells SFR that he’s waiting to hear back from the city any day now on the agreement.

But he says he’s confident that the stars will align and the caboose will stay in the City Different; it just might not be at its current location. The city is making plans to dig a tunnel beneath St. Francis at the spot for a pedestrian and bike underpass

“The hard part is over, which was raising the money to keep it here,” says Martinez, who spearheaded the fundraising effort. And while he was doing all this, the railway reported that an interested buyer was waiting in the wings.

Thankfully, a local man who is a member of the Texas Historical Society and who had sentimental ties to the industry pitched in $8,500, sealing the fate of the caboose, which, it turns out, will not vamoose. A handful of other donors came up with the rest of the sale price. 

While particulars surrounding the history of the rail car are a bit vague, this much is certain: It’s a Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad steel caboose from the late 1940s or early ’50s.

This much more is certain: It’s an artifact that has blended in with the landscape, and Martinez now hopes that it has many more years to go.

Like the end of a birthday song, “and many more.”

The entire affair is an optimistic case study on how fast bureaucracy can move when it concerns the preservation of something so cherished, and it also is a demonstration of how one man, namely Martinez, changed the landscape by making sure it did not change at all. 

How? By merely showing up at a City Council meeting and speaking his piece during public comments.

It’s also proof of how important homegrown folks like Martinez are to the community. He grew  up in Santa Fe and knows it well and cares about it even more, the tenets of an effective neighborhood activist.

But he gives all glory to those who opened their wallets in a time of need.

“There’s nothing more amazing when people come together for a common cause, especially when that cause is having pride in their city,” he says.


Burn Another One Down

Zozobra and Zozobro offering options for torching last year's woes

Local NewsMonday, August 31, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

We've all got a few worries worth destroying, and this time of year is increasingly ripe with options.

Of course, many are looking forward to the 91st year of the Burning of Zozobra, which will once again take over Fort Marcy Park on a Friday night, this time Sept. 4. 

And for the second time this year, there's the not-to-be-confused (or seen as copyright infringement) Zozobro, a student-built sculpture filled with more than 200 worries and regrets from the Tierra Encantada Charter School.

Teacher Joaquin Martinez led his ninth grade class in lessons on Santa Fe's fiesta history and traditions, mathematics, and team-building to construct Zozobro, recruiting parents to help with the framing to make it a full community effort, and adorning him with traditional Mexican tissue paper flowers. At 4:30 pm on Wednesday, shortly after the Fiesta Court visits the school, a music club procession will lead to the school’s basketball court, where Zozobro will burn. 

With him will go worries collected from throughout the school and stuffed into the sculpture’s shoulders. 

“For my kids, it was super important, just the cooperation—they had to design and do the blueprints and so on, and then for the school, it's important to have a place to really let go of the worries and see that sometimes we all have the same ones,” Martinez says. “So we'll have discussion about, ‘Well, what did you write down.’ ‘Oh, me too.’ It’s not so much an Oprah Winfrey show, but we get into the common worries or the common troubles, whether finances or family problems or so on, so it’s an outlet to see the unity in life.”

This is the second year for Zozobro, after last year saw Martinez’s seventh grade history class working on three spin-off burning sculptures. While he jokes that they’ll find out if Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe has anything to say about the carefully guarded tradition they sponsor (the club was none too pleased with a satirical @Old_Man_Gloom Twitter account that popped up last year), so far it looks like the Tierra Encantada kids are in the clear.

Zozobra event chair Ray Sandoval wasn’t aware of the fauxzo.

“You know, I think that we all want to participate, and if this is a learning opportunity for the kids and it brings them together, I don’t have a problem with that,” Sandoval said on Tuesday afternoon at Sanbusco Center, where the O G Zozobra rests just a few days away from meeting its maker.

“If it were much taller than 10 feet and they started charging admission, then we would probably have some,” he continued.

“It looks great! I think the kids are gonna have a lot of fun,” he said, looking at pictures of Zozobro on a reporter’s mobile phone.

Sandoval ended with a caution. “Obviously, burning something is dangerous. We don’t want to encourage all of these little fires everywhere, but at the same time people are respectful and that obviously looks like Zozobra, so I think we’re OK with it.”

The real-deal Friday evening festivities will be followed the next day with the Santa Fe Fiesta Mariachi Extravaganza, featuring Mariachi Sol de Mexico, Al Hurricane & Al Hurricane, Jr., and this year, for the first time, a 5K and 10K run for adults and 1K run for kids, as well as entertainment beginning at 3 pm. Fort Marcy Park opens at 7 pm, and the burning is at 9:30 pm. 

Downtown parking will be $5 in city-owned facilities, and a free shuttle service will run from parking lots to the event site. Bus service to and from the site is also free. 

Look out for road closures along Bishop's Lodge Road from Paseo de Peralta to Murales Road, Old Taos Highway from Paseo de Peralta to Murales Road, Paseo de Peralta between Grant and Washington, Murales Road and Federal Place, and restricted car traffic patterns on Paseo de Peralta and Old Taos Highway. Expect the Cross of the Martyrs area to also be closed this year. 

Tickets are $10, and more information is at www.burnzozobra.com and various Guadalupe Credit Union and State Employees Credit Union locations.

SFR Deputy Editor Enrique Limón contributed to this story.

Ready, Set, Go

Santa Fe city election candidates can pick up packets to be in races for March 2016 ballot

Local NewsMonday, August 31, 2015 by Julie Ann Grimm

Looking for change at City Hall? Are you ready to be the change you want to see in the world? 

Prospective candidates for Santa Fe City Council can pick up information and necessary paperwork from the city clerk beginning today. 

Since city councilors fill staggered four-year terms, one seat in each of the four districts is up for grabs in the March 1, 2016, election. 

Councilors whose terms are expiring are Patti Bushee, in the northside District 1, Peter Ives, representing eastside District 2, Chris Rivera, from District 3 in the southwest region of the city, and Bill Dimas, who lives in District 4 in the south-central neighborhoods. 

The municipal judge seat is also ripe for the taking, since Judge Ann Yalman tells SFR Monday morning that she’s not planning to run for judge again. Appointed to fill a spot vacated when Judge Fran Gallegos resigned in 2005, Yalman then earned election twice. 

After nearly 10 years in the court and at age 67, she’s ready to retire. 

“I’m young enough to run for president, but not young enough to run for municipal judge again,” Yalman says with a hearty laugh. 

City rules require all candidates for the judge job to have passed the New Mexico Bar. The court deals with traffic cases and misdemeanors such as shoplifting, drunken driving and code enforcement within Santa Fe's city limits. 

Ives tells SFR he’s ready to jump into the election cycle again and is planning to “enjoy the process.” 

“My hope is that the record has been strong enough that folks think I have been doing a good job in paying attention and putting the city in the right direction," he says, "and they will want to put me back in there.”

He says he hopes to see more voters submit ballots this go-round. 

But since the election doesn’t feature a contest for mayor, history doesn’t predict that will come true. The 2014 election saw about 29 percent of registered voters casting ballots compared to the 2012 election, which had a turnout of about 20 percent. 

Rivera says he's also planning to run again and hopes to stop by City Hall today to pick up his candidate packet. As of about 2 pm, City Clerk Yolanda Vigil reports that both Bushee and Dimas have already picked up packets, along with former Councilor Frank Montaño, who says he wants to run against Bushee. Former County Commissioner Virginia Vigil also stopped by, the clerk says, because she's interested in running for the judge spot. 

The first step for a candidate is to complete a nominating petition with signatures from at least one-half of 1 percent of the registered voters in the district where he or she is seeking office. For the judge office, voters can be from anywhere in the city. There’s also information about getting started with the city’s public campaign financing system. Vigil says she's meeting with those who stop by today in person and wants other potential candidates to make an appointment so she can get them started on the right foot. For more details, call her at 955-6521. 

Morning Word: Border Funds Spent on Overtime

Concerns raised about how law enforcement spent federal resources

Morning WordMonday, August 31, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Border Audit
State auditors are expressing concerns about how the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office allocated funds it received from a Homeland Security grant. Turns out a ton of money meant to be used at the border is going toward management overtime.

Gambling Spree
After reading about New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s alleged gambling sprees with campaign donations, we are left to wonder if anyone would ever donate money to a political candidate again. The criminal case could boost support for publicly financed campaigns, but again those seem to be problematic too. Remember how Ben Hall was accused of paying himself during his losing re-election bid last fall? 

Political Analysis
Some people are already calling on Duran to resign. If she does, the governor will get to appoint her replacement until a special election next year. Blogger Joe Monahan is the go-to guy for analysis on this one. 

In and Out
It looks like veterans are getting faster access to benefits and not having to wait as long for doctor appointments. 

Big Day at APS
Albuquerque Public Schools board members are expected to decide the fate of Superintendent Luis Valentino this morning.

Unpopular Evaluations 
Parents, according to a new poll, really don’t like their children’s teachers being evaluated for how their students perform on tests.   

City Money  
The City of Santa Fe needs to address its $15 million deficit and figure out how to avoid budget shortfalls in the future, according to Finance Director Oscar Rodriguez.

Bail Reform
Judges want to keep dangerous criminal suspects behind bars, and now there’s a push to reform the state’s bail system. 

Recycling the Recycling Plan

Santa Fe County will draft ordinance that requires current haulers to offer recycling pickup in three districts

Local NewsSaturday, August 29, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

The nearly half-dozen trash haulers who serve three districts in unincorporated areas of Santa Fe County would be required to provide recycling services under a new proposal that aims to increase the rate of diversion from the landfill while still keeping the interests of county residents in mind.

The proposed ordinance, which was outlined last week by county solid waste management officials, is a compromise to an earlier idea that would have had the county directly intervening to award exclusive contracts to haulers who made the lowest bids to the county for refuse and recycling pickup.

That plan met fierce opposition this summer from hundreds of residents who testified at community meetings that they happened to like their trash haulers, especially the rates, and the last thing they wanted was the county to step in, change the lineup and increase the price of pickup.

A series of community meetings are planned in the next two months to see how residents react to the latest proposal, which covers 15,000 households that stretch as far south as Edgewood, as far north as Tesuque and as far east as Lamy.

“The moral to the story is that we are listening to the people, and we’re trying to work with them. We're hoping they'll like this and will be onboard with it,” Craig O’Hare, an energy programs specialist with the county, tells SFR on Saturday. “This approach to this ordinance is just as aggressive as the last one, at least in terms of getting more people to recycle. And that’s our objective.”

Under the proposal, the trash haulers would have to pull a permit from the county and tally by weight the recyclables they collect, reporting it to the county on either a monthly or quarterly basis, something that hasn't been worked out yet, O’Hare says. 

There might not be a permit fee, O’Hare adds, but if there is one, he claims it will be minimal because the overall objective is to monitor the volume of recycling in the county.

Right now, county rules say residents who throw their recyclables in with the rest of the regular refuse are actually subject to fines, but such cases are rare, according to O'Hare, who notes the county's new goal is to divert between 25 and 30 percent, in keeping with the standards set by many recycling-conscientious local governments across the country.

O’Hare, however, recognizes that such a goal will take time, and he says he’s hoping that it all will start with provisions such as these, which require trash haulers to accommodate residents who otherwise can drop off their own recyclables at the eight so-called convenience centers in Santa Fe County.

“It’s important to point out in all this that we're not asking that people pay for trash haulers if they don't want to,” O’Hare says. 

He estimates that roughly 3,000 of the 15,000 households do so in the three districts the county is targeting, and that nearly two-thirds of the people who live in the districts currently do not have recycling pickup.

O’Hare says once the to-be-determined community meetings are held and the county has a sense of how the residents feel about the ordinance, it could go before the Santa Fe County Commissioners for formal adoption sometime in late October or early November, eventually taking effect in the spring of next year.

“That will give the haulers time to prepare for what they need,” O’Hare says.


This Weekend

Celebrate New Orleans with Music

Weekend PicksFriday, August 28, 2015 by SFR

Slices of Wonder

Works that engage packaging design and ad culture.

More Info >>

Guardians of the Galaxy

Step into this Chris Pratt filled corner of the Marvel Universe.

More Info >>


Bike MS: Pedal Los Pueblos

This two day charity ride raises money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

More Info >>

ZozoFest

Watch as they unveil this year's design of Zozobra, check out the Zozo-themed art show inside Sanbusco, put all the gloom you want to ditch inside that papier-mache bastard and then check the live entertainment under the water tower. Nice.

More Info >>


A Salute to New Orleans: 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

The Iguanas and Les Gens Bruyants pay tribute to the always awesome New Orleans.

More Info >>

Joe West and the Santa Fe Revue Gospel Brunch

It's brunch, it's gospel, it's not a half bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

More Info >>




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

Boil Water in Las Campanas

Roughly 400 residents of luxury subdivision urged to boil water for five minutes to kill possible E. coli

Local NewsFriday, August 28, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

A high-end housing community on Santa Fe's west side is reeling as the state has advised roughly 400 residents who live in Las Campanas to boil their water, at least until tomorrow evening. Officials are working to determine whether E. coli is making the water dangerous to drink, the state Environment Department’s Drinking Water Bureau tells SFR.

Wayne Jeffs, a compliance officer with the water bureau, says so far no one in the community 10 miles west of Santa Fe has fallen ill, and a few more samples have been taken by the Las Campanas Water and Sewer Association. The results should be back sometime Saturday afternoon.

The boil advisory was issued late Thursday afternoon after a routine test conducted on Monday discovered a microbiological contaminant that indicated there might be E. coli in the drinking supply, Jeffs says.

On Wednesday, more water samples were taken, and the results came back Thursday morning, identifying the contaminant as E. coli, according to Jeffs.

Jeffs says the contamination may have been brought on by stagnant water in some of the water lines, or there could have been a false positive during the sample process. In any event, he claims that the water bureau is trying to get to the bottom of it; in the interim, he says the bureau is “erring on the side of caution.”

This advisory only applies to the drinking water from the Las Campanas Water System and does not extend to any other surrounding water systems, Jeffs says.

Concierge Nancy McDermott says this afternoon that the Club at Las Campanas shut down its food and beverage service to be on safe side, but the golf course is still open.

City officials say their municipal water supply has not been contaminated. Recent water samples have so far yielded clean results. Although the city sells water to Santa Fe County, which then provides water to the Las Campanas Water System, city officials say there has been no indication that the bacteriological contamination originated from city water sources, according to a press release issued today. 

Consumers of the Las Campanas Water System are advised to boil the water for five minutes before drinking, cooking, dishwashing and bathing, according to a press release issued by the state Environment Department. 

The presence of E. coli in water, the press release says, indicates that the water may have been in contact with sewage or animal wastes and could contain disease-causing organisms.

Most strains of E. coli are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, according to the state. However, a positive test for E. coli in the drinking water supply may indicate the presence of dangerous strains that could cause severe gastrointestinal illness and, in rare cases, death.

Children, the elderly and immuno-compromised individuals are at an increased risk for illness, the state said.

UPDATE: As of late Saturday, the water boil was lifted after test samples taken Friday concluded that the water was clean and safe to drink.


Morning Word: Solar Levy Dropped

PNM's 15.8 percent rate hike request no longer includes fee for photovoltaic panel usage to offset grid infrastructure costs

Morning WordFriday, August 28, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Solar Levy Dropped
The state's investor-owned utility filed a 15.8 percent residential rate increase request with the Public Regulation Commission in Santa Fe on Thursday. PNM has decided not to request fees from homeowners who rely on rooftop solar panels for their electricity. If the utility gets a fuel charge reduction and cuts other costs, residents could eventually be hit with a 7.9 percent hike.

Clean Water Act Blocked
New Mexico and 12 other states successfully got a judge in North Dakota to block implementation of the Clean Water Act, which was supposed to go into effect today. New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn welcomed the news: Regulating a state’s most precious resource, water, from Washington DC is both ineffective and wrong. Local oversight, local control and local communication lead to the most effective protection of our arid state’s waters, streams, and tributaries.”

School Board Punts
Thursday morning's school board meeting to consider the future of Luis Valentino, the new Albuquerque Schools superintendent, didn't end with any personnel decisions. Instead, the panel decided to push their discussions to next week. It's New Mexico, and the board's inaction has us asking the age-old question: Mañana?

Straw Poll
We missed this earlier, but Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, won the Curry County Fair straw poll. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina rounded out the top four. Carson won a similar poll in Roosevelt County. It might not matter. Results from the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Joe Biden, who's said to be considering entering the Democratic primary, beats all the GOP candidates in general election matchups in the voter survey.

Bank Boom
On the same day that Wall Street saw its best two-day rebound, a new report show community banks in rural parts of the state are giving more residential and commercial loans. That could be a good sign for the economies in eastern and southern New Mexico.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction
The Santa Fe Climate Change Leadership Institute wants city and government leaders to impose a $2 fee on monthly water bills to create a fund aimed at reducing carbon and methane gas emissions. Here's how it would work, according to the nonprofit: Those funds could be used for more solar installations, community gardens, home weatherization programs, low energy loans to help residents transition to renewable energy and education programs informing people how they can reduce their carbon footprint.

New Mexico Film
Denzel Washington, who has filmed movies in New Mexico before, is headed back to the Land of Enchantment to star in the remake of The Magnificent 7 with Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt and Peter Sarsgaard.

Lady Lobos Win
It was close, but the University of New Mexico's women's soccer team beat in-state rival New Mexico State University for the fifth consecutive time. The 1-0 victory was the first for new head coach Heather Dyche.

Have a great weekend. Come back to see what's new on Monday.
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