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

Talkin' Alcohol Policy

State officials open up to questions from local service industry professionals

Local NewsTuesday, December 1, 2015 by Alex De Vore

Local restaurant and hotel owners and employees were able to put faces to the names behind the state’s Alcohol and Gaming Division, regulatory and police enforcement at a paneled Q&A discussion at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center this afternoon. 

A joint operation between the Greater Santa Fe Restaurant Association and government officials, the event aimed to allow service industry workers the opportunity to voice concerns over state law and enforcement tactics used by the Special Investigations Unit, formerly known as the State Investigation Division, as well as ask any questions about state policy or law. 

Those special investigators are infamous among service industry vets as the organization behind sting operations that involve the underaged attempting to obtain booze, but this coming together of key officials seems to herald a new focus on community cooperation.

“For many years we were seen as the enemy,” New Mexico State Police Captain Suzanne Skasik told the room of approximately 30. “We’re trying to find the balance between enforcement and education.”

“I believe that these people’s intentions are genuine and they’ve been very helpful to us,” Sam Gerberding, association president and general manager of Del Charro and Inn of the Governors, tells SFR. “Just to bring all these people together and start this conversation…that was very successful.”

And though all exchanges between officials and service professionals were respectful, the overall subtext was one of frustration and muted fear.

“Say someone has been out at another bar and just starting to get their party on or drinking in a parking lot before they come in to my establishment,” Skylight co-owner Joe Ray Sandoval queried. “Can we be cited for intoxicated people in our bar who drank beforehand?”

Skasik admitted that she did not have an appropriate answer for this particular question, but did state that SIU is beholden to stringent operations policies.

“We have to be able to show presumptive evidence in our reports,” she said. “We have to be able to show that the server knew the person was already intoxicated.”

Other questions with unfortunately vague answers included the difference between wine and beer sales, police response times in regards to intoxicated patrons attempting to drive, a painfully slow picnic license application process, outdated server’s license classes and the potential for owner and server education.

 In the end, however, it was obvious that the wheels of government turn slowly and the vast majority of complications fall squarely on the shoulders of the businesses themselves. Cab use has dropped drastically, according to county DWI official Peter Olson, but he hopes that $5 rides during the holidays will spark greater numbers. Olson also pointed to Uber as a viable non-driving option.

But that’s not quite enough for Sandoval to rest easy.

“Yeah, it’s important to know who these entities are and we all have a lot of questions, but the laws are still heavily flawed,” Sandoval adds at the day's end. “After a certain point it becomes way more about public safety than anything else and we just can’t take the risk on principal, as a business, but also just as people.”

Sandoval suggested possible overnight parking in the city’s Sandoval Street parking garage but was ultimately told it was unviable. He’s also attempted to remain open until 3 am and offer a limited food menu, but due to the attached liquor license of his space, he cannot legally do so.

“We stop serving alcohol at 1:30 am, so that would be 90 minutes for people to keep dancing and exercise that alcohol out of their system or maybe eat a burger or something,” he says. “I don’t see a downside for anyone but us.”

Spirits were high following the meeting, and the general consensus from both sides was that an unprecedented coming together of these groups is a great first step. Outdated policy and confusing rhetoric aside, it does at least seem as if good things are in the works. Of course, before then it would probably be wise for all you bar folk to keep checking those IDs and not selling to obviously drunk people.

Get Wise on Budget Woes

Mayor, councilors take public input on how to fix city budget shortfall

Local NewsTuesday, December 1, 2015 by Elizabeth Miller

Mayor Javier Gonzales will host listening sessions to take public input on and discuss solutions to the budget shortfall on Monday, Dec. 7 and Tuesday, Dec. 15. The opportunity for public participation is preface to the budget conversations expected to begin in early 2016 as the City Council moves to tackle, at long last, a looming $15 million difference between city revenue and city spending. Expecting that these solutions will take more than one year to devise and roll out, officials aim to release a budget for three years instead of one. 

City finances rely largely on gross receipts tax revenue, which has slumped since the recession, and finds itself struggling to make ends meet faced with an aging population of retirees and many second home owners who simply don’t spend enough on taxable goods and services to stock the city coffers. 

“The economy and demographics changed, and the city up until now has had a hard time adjusting to those changes,” says Oscar Rodriguez, Santa Fe’s finance director.

After once again raiding the surplus funds generated by the city-run water utility (that utility budgets assuming people will only spend the $6 per 1,000 gallon rate, and anytime someone over uses and buys water at $22 per 1,000 gallons, it’s essentially surplus) to balance the budget this year, city councilors vowed to mend their ways and close the gap. Without finding other ways of plugging the hole, Gonzales told SFR in an October meeting, the city will run the risk of having so little cash on hand that they may not be able to cover basics like payroll for city employees.

Raising the gross receipts tax by a number of mills won’t even be enough at this point. We’ll likely be looking at increases in other taxes, such as property taxes, which usually cover the bulk of a city’s budget but in the City Different comprise less than 10 percent of funding. 

The mayor has mentioned trying to decrease the costs of city government, increase efficiency and boost the economy, as well as making cuts in a “no sacred cows” approach, including possible cuts to senior centers and recreation centers. 

“There’s not a single area that’s safe from looking at cutting costs,” Gonzales told SFR. “It’s not just one fix. It’s a comprehensive effort to right-size government.” 

Got an opinion on all that? Of course you do. 

Listening sessions take place 6-7 pm Monday, Dec. 7 at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center and Tuesday, Dec. 15, at the Main Library.

PrEP for the Future

HIV prevention drug gains traction in Santa Fe and nation

Local NewsTuesday, December 1, 2015 by Julie Ann Grimm

One patient reports a nurse told him she had never heard of it. Another doctor said the medicine was “just for porn stars.” A third patient, though, says knowing a potential partner is on it is the only way to go. 

They’re all talking about pills known as PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, which research says can prevent the spread of HIV more effectively than most other options to date.

Condom use and making “less risky” choices still top the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yet PrEP is also now on that list. Some of the same drugs that helped make the virus virtually undetectable and un-transmittable in HIV-positive individuals have been approved by the US government for a preventative regimen.

All three of the true stories above are from men in Santa Fe. But Dr. Joel Gallant, head of the HIV, AIDS and hepatitis C treatment and research programs for Southwest Care Center, says that as another World AIDS Day rolls around on the calendar (it’s today, Dec. 1), the message about PrEP is getting out.

“There is just no excuse for getting HIV anymore,” Gallant tells SFR. “And while the politically correct thing is to tell everybody to use condoms, the reality is it’s not happening, and we have this other tool that can prevent a lifelong disease.”

Most insurance companies cover the prescription, which goes by the brand name Truvada, as does Medicaid, and in the absence of all those options, the drugmaker Gilead Sciences, Inc. also has a program that defers the cost for patients.

Gallant says he’s seen a marked uptick in Santa Fe patients who ask for PrEP, and that trend reflects a national movement.

Based on data collected with the help of insurance companies, Truvada's manufacturer reports more than three times as many patients used PrEP in the first quarter of 2015 compared to a year earlier, according to Dr. Trevor Hawkins, the Southwest Care founder who left Santa Fe this year to work as a senior medical director for medical affairs at Gilead. While it’s difficult to pin down the exact number of individuals using the medication at a particular time, Hawkins says the exponential increase is notable.

“Our understanding is that it’s rapidly increasing. PrEP was approved for use in 2012, and it was slow to start, but now the numbers are picking up,” Hawkins says. 

Awareness about PrEP has really taken off by word of mouth, Gallant says.

“There is a huge discussion of PrEP on social media, and it used to be very negative, and now it has become much more positive,” Gallant says. “There have been just study after study showing how effective it is: the British PROUD study, the French Ipergay study showing virtually 100 percent effectiveness in people who are taking the medication.” (The CDC, by the way, says that taking PrEP makes an individual 92 percent less likely to contract the virus than not taking it.)

The idea that doctors would admit the problem with condom compliance and instead talk about harm reduction is itself a sea change that first began with some of the same compounds being applied as a sort of “morning-after” pill for risky sex. The PEP regime (for post-exposure prophylaxis) is a three-drug combo that that, taken for a few weeks after exposure to the virus, is shown to be effective in preventing its acquisition. 

Gallant says the most recent application, which uses two of the drugs from PEP, called tenofovir and emtricitabine, is a significant advancement. Yet there are still hurdles. A recent survey conducted for the CDC, for example, estimated that up to a third of US doctors don’t know about PrEP or aren’t willing to prescribe it. quoted Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, as saying, “We need to work to ensure that clinicians are aware of PrEP. Doctors need more prep about PrEP.”

A spokeswoman for Porter Novelli, the firm that conducted the survey, tells SFR that more data on doctor awareness and other issues from the research are set for release at the upcoming National HIV Prevention Conference on Dec. 7.

While most of the patients receiving PrEP at the Santa Fe clinic are gay men, Gallant says it’s important to note that the drug isn’t just for that demographic.

“The other point I think is really important that no one ever talks about is that the most effective  forms of prevention until PrEP were in the control of the person least likely to be infected. So you think about a man who is wearing a condom because he is engaging in assertive anal or vaginal sex, he’s not the one at risk, it’s the woman or the man on the bottom who is at risk. The prevention is a little bit out of their control because they have to trust the assertive partner to be wearing the condom. And that is also true of treatment as prevention. You have to rely on the person who is positive to be taking HIV medicines to prevent transmission, but you don’t really have any control over that,” he says. “PrEP suddenly puts prevention in the hands of the person who is the one at risk. And it’s the only intervention that we have that does that, that empowers people who are at risk to prevent HIV rather than the other partner.”

Gallant arrived in Santa Fe about two years ago but has worked in HIV and AIDS medicine since his residency in San Francisco in 1981. To learn more about PrEP, he invites visitors to the clinic’s Harkle campus on the first Monday of every month. 

5:30 to 7:30 pm Monday, Dec. 7
Harkle campus of Southwest CARE Center,
649 Harkle Road, Ste. E,

Morning Word: Power Plan Vote Set

PRC commissioners will decide PNM case Dec. 6

Morning WordTuesday, December 1, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Power Vote
Public Regulation commissioners plan to vote on the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s power replacement plan on Dec. 16. 
The case centers on a plan by Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, to retire two units at the aging coal-fired generating station by the end of 2017 so the plant complies with federal regulations intended to reduce haze in the region. The lost power would be replaced by power from another of the plant's coal-fired units, from the Arizona-based Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, and from additional natural gas- and solar sources. The plan was developed as a compromise after utility officials said complying with federal Clean Air Act regulations would be too expensive and result in the plant's closure. 
Lofty Goals
A new law aimed at modernizing commercial space regulations is being well received and could create even more competitiveness at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico.

New Rules
A bill being proposed by lawmakers could make it easier to follow the money by mandating that independent groups report their political advertising expenditures of $3,000 or more to the secretary of state’s office within 24 hours, if they’re made two weeks before a primary or general election.

Catching Up
It could cost millions to process the complete backlog of rape test kits in New Mexico over the next three years, according to Department of Public Safety officials.

Crime Stats
DPS Secretary Greg Fouratt also told lawmakers New Mexico’s crime rate is still one of the highest in the nation.

Drug Deaths
The numbers may be decreasing, but sadly, the state continues to have too many young people dying from opioid overdose deaths.
Trust for America’s Health, reported on by Governing, found that 12.5 out of every 100,000 New Mexicans from ages 12 to 25 overdosed in 2011 to 2013. That was an increase from 6.1 out of every 100,000 from 1999 to 2003. 

Bad Stats
Montana may have the worst drivers in the nation, but New Mexicans are right behind, according to this new report.

Some Good News
At least we can all look forward to a parade for UFC champ Holly Holm on Sunday.
Other good news: Cassy, a pet tortoise, is back home after being stolen this weekend in Albuquerque.

Paper Gets New Owner
Veteran journalist Ellen Miller Goins has purchased the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle from the parent company of the Taos News and Santa Fe New Mexican. 

The Fork

You Win Some, You Dim Sum

The ForkMonday, November 30, 2015 by Rob DeWalt

The Fork is a lot like that sandwich you order every week at your favorite restaurant: It's delicious, it brings you comfort and you can't get it anywhere else in town. This newsletter serves up local food events and trends, restaurant news, recipes and much more. This week, we have dim sum dreams on the brain. Do you have some Santa Fe- or New Mexico-related food or restaurant news? We’d love to hear it and share it with our readers. Please send detailed information to And please don't hesitate to invite your foodie friends to the party.

You Had Us at 'Dim Sum'

Santa Fe: Prepare yourselves, because your dining scene is about to get a brand-new restaurant, and it's unlike anything this town has seen before. Former Arroyo Vino restaurant chef Mark Connell has been busy getting ready to open State Capital Kitchen in the space formerly occupied by Infierno (and before that, Café Café) at 500 Sandoval St. Expect the unexpected when the restaurant opens (hopefully) in December. Chef Connell told The Fork that a few design changes are being made in the dining room, and that service will be a highlight of the dining experience. Based loosely on the concept of restaurants like Atlanta's The Gunshow, State Capital Kitchen will focus on cart-to-table service similar to that found in the dim sum houses of China and large metropolitan areas around the world. "The idea is to bring our selections by your table," Connell says, "and let you pick what you want." Nontraditional dim sum should be expected, and a classic menu will also be available. Even better news: The restaurant is determined to support local farmers, ranchers and foragers. While you wait in anticipation of the opening, you can track the progress of the restaurant by visiting its Facebook page.

Powder = Chow

Ski season wouldn't be complete without a little après ski nosh, and for those with a season pass or same-day lift ticket stub from any and all legit New Mexico ski destinations, Fire & Hops wants to reward you for shredding massive powder. Until ski season ends, season pass holders and same-day stub holders get 10 percent off their bill. Look out for new menu items such as red curry sweet potato soup, shoyu ramen and shrimp fritters. And don't worry: Classics like the fried mac 'n' cheese and the green chile poutine aren't going anywhere. Did we mention they also have a rotating stable of 11 craft beers on tap? Insiders tell me they'll even accept passes from Wolf Creek. Paying it forward, one beer and fritter at a time.

Mmm,, Where's the Beer?

Beer and cheese are made for each other. Sure, wine and cheese pairings may garner the most public attention, but Cheesemongers of Santa Fe wants you to know that beer has its rightful place at the cheese table. Enlisting the help of Matthew Zehnder, a manager at Susan's Fine Wine & Spirits and a home brewer on a mission, Cheesemongers of Santa Fe is holding a beer and cheese pairing class TODAY. From the class description on the website: "We'll discuss the basics of joining the two, and progressively taste through a selection of six pairings, elaborating on pairing concepts applicable beyond this tasting. Warning: This class has the potential (and angle) to get nerdy." Our nerd hearts swoon, bathed in brie.

Season for Giving

Kitchen Angels, a nonprofit organization in Santa Fe that provides free, nutritious meals to homebound residents, is inviting volunteers to help them assemble gift baskets on Saturday, Dec. 5, for their homebound clients as part of its Spirit of Giving campaign. You are also invited to donate gifts of all kinds for the baskets. "60 percent of our clients are female," the nonprofit stresses on its website, "and most are 50-plus years old. We also serve about a dozen children. So, we can use most every kind of gift." Contact Kitchen Angels to find out how you can help make the holidays a little bit brighter for some residents in need. Monetary donations are always welcome.

Egg Roll with It

Santa Fe is in the midst of a major Asian-food-delivery drought. Besides the fine crew over at Dashing Delivery, there isn't much hot lo-mein-to-door action going on here. JC's Express (4350 Airport Road, Ste. 15, 424-8889) says it doesn't have to be that way. Just click on the "order now" icon on their website, order your food and then fidget at your front door like a dog waiting for its human to come home. The menu is eclectic: Asian, classic American and New Mexican. Good news: They have a Chinese chef on board for the Asian goods. The business also sports a few sit-down tables and offers takeout.

Grab 'n' Go 2.0

Do you work downtown and can't think of where to get a quick meal? Legendary chef John Rivera Sedlar's Santa Fe restaurant Eloisa (located inside the Drury Plaza Hotel, 228 E Palace Ave., 424-2175) now offers a grab-and-go option. Serving fresh-baked pastries, sandwiches, salads and other goodies, Eloisa is making good use of its downtown location to lure in more walk-in business. SFR reviewed Eloisa in May and will be checking out the takeout experience here very soon. In the meantime, call the restaurant for the day's takeaway options.

Morning Word: Drunk Driver Kills Three

'He needs to pay for what he did,' family says

Morning WordMonday, November 30, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Drunk Driver Kills Three
Another holiday in New Mexico ends with yet another fatal drunk driving accident, despite free ride shares and reduced cab prices. Jacob Jaramillo, 23, was charged with three counts of vehicular homicide after running a red light in Albuquerque early Sunday morning.

Jail Costs
The New Mexico Association of Counties want state lawmakers to meet their legal obligations and financial responsibilities, as more counties around the state struggle to keep up with the cost of housing inmates headed to prison, parole violators and offenders who are jointly supervised by probation and parole officers.

Rethinking Bail
Thomas J Cole reports state judges could deny bail to defendants to protect the community if a proposed constitutional amendment is passed. The New Mexico Supreme Court also wants voters to consider allowing some nonviolent offenders to stay out of jail, even if they don’t have the money or resources to post very low bonds.

‘Sweetheart Deal’ Questioned
Former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid and her husband, Mike Messina, are under the microscope in Vermont after brokering a deal between a private law practice and that state’s attorney general, who filed a groundwater contamination lawsuit against 29 oil and gas companies. Messina and Madrid deny their donations to Attorney General William H Sorrell resulted in a sweetheart deal.

Report Corruption
Paul J Gessing, the Rio Grande Foundation’s executive director, is encouraging government employees to speak up in favor of honest and ethical government and to expose corruption when they know about it. Gessing suggests:
Public employees at every level of an organization’s hierarchy have the right and the responsibility to ensure government is lawful and proper in its activities. If they see something, they should say something, without fear of retaliation. In that spirit, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed the Whistleblower Protection Act in 2010. 
Secrecy over Transparency
New Mexico In Depth Director Trip Jennings suggests New Mexico lawmakers and government officials appear to prefer secrecy over open government, especially when it comes to capital outlay funding, which isn’t always divvied up fairly, according to analysis by Sandra Fish.

Political accountability
Journalist Steve Terrell suggests politicians and elected leaders could use some good public relations strategies.

Real ID: Myth versus Fact
New Mexico isn’t the only state out of compliance with federal Real ID regulations. Some 28 other states face similar challenges.

Lobos Win
It looks like the Lobos may be headed to a bowl game after all. UNM ran past the Air Force Falcons, 47-35, on Saturday.

UNM Makeover
Lobo Louie will be on the sidelines rooting for the Lobos if they’re invited to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, but it looks like the university is going to be getting a complete marketing  makeover to attract new students.

Patriots Upset
Thanksgiving weekend ended well for Broncos’ fans. Denver topped the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, 30-24, last night in overtime.

Sunshine Daydream
After a cloudy holiday weekend, we’re going to have a lot of sunshine this week. Rain and snow don’t show up in the forecast until Saturday.

This Weekend

Better Black Friday Plans

Weekend PicksFriday, November 27, 2015 by SFR

Holiday Tree Lighting

Festivities start around 3 pm. Volunteers begin lighting 1,000 farolitos around 4:30, and lighting the tree is at 6.

More Info >>

Wise Fool presents Circus Luminous

The local circus troupe swings into action with another installment of its annual, Cirque du Soleil-ish Circus Luminous event.

More Info >>

Moby Dick

It's the Led Zepplin cover band, not that long-ass book no one ever finishes reading.

More Info >>

Nick Warren with Mayrant and Melanie Moore

Warren travels all the damn way from the UK to lay down house and techno tunes and local DJs Melanie Moore and Mayrant warm everyone up with similar jamzorz. Check out this week's music column for an interview with Warren.

More Info >>

Last Sundays with Jazz Explosion

Russel Scharf plays jazz on the last Sunday of the month, with special guests and a special bar menu.

More Info >>

9th Annual Gift Fair

Local artisans sell a wide range of jewelry, up-cycled gifts, books, photography, and more.

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.

Questions, Folks?

Restaurant group to hold question-and-answer session to clear any confusion about alcohol consumption during holidays

Local NewsMonday, November 30, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Tis the season for giving and drinking, and the latest to enter the fray in trying to curb drunken driving is the Greater Santa Fe Restaurant Association, which is inviting the public to a question-and-answer session on Tuesday afternoon.

Some of the state’s highest ranking officials will be present to field questions from the audience, from Gregory Fouratt, the cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, to Pete Kassetas, chief of the New Mexico State Police, and Mike Unthank, superintendent of the Regulations and Licensing Department for the state.

Diana Trujillo, the executive director of the Restaurant Association, says some of the questions could include, “Can I sell a bottle of wine to a single customer to take home?” and “If I’m stopped at a DWI checkpoint and I admit to drinking a cocktail or two, will I be asked to step out of the car to take a sobriety test?”

The session will start at 2:30 pm and end at 4:30 pm, at the Santa Fe Convention Center.

It’s just the latest measure underway to curb the consumption of too much alcohol in the region as Thanksgiving comes and goes and Christmas is upon us before we know it—with 80 proof alcohol to egg along the holiday cheer.

Santa Fe County last week took steps to encourage safe driving, letting residents know that they could dial a cab for a significantly reduced fares, and students in the Pojoaque Valley were out in full force with local cops, placings “sticker shock” labels on booze and wine, reminding adults that they shouldn’t buy for under-age drinkers.

The subsidized rides, courtesy of the New Mexico Liquor Excise Tax, were available on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and another round of reduced fares will be available during the Christmas season, according to county officials.

The county feels the Cab Ride Home Program is effective in lowering drunken driving crashes and fatalities in Santa Fe, along with a stepped-up presence of Santa Fe cops and county sheriff deputies.

“Take a moment to remember that ‘TwoTooMany’ means that you could lose your car to forfeiture if arrested on a second DWI charge,” according to the county press release.

But why run the risk and get charged with one DWI?

County Jail Blues

State shorts county jails money due in face of 100,000 bookings in 2015 fiscal year

Local NewsSaturday, November 28, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Roughly 35 percent of inmates doing time in county jails are mentally ill—a sign that adult detention facilities in New Mexico have become a de facto form of housing in the absence of state mental facilities and just one of the problems with the cost of incarceration across the state. 

Consider this: There were 100,000 bookings at 27 local detention facilities in New Mexico for the fiscal year 2015, for an average daily population 7,305. That's nearly as many inmates serving in state-run prisons, which logged an average daily count of 7,000 for the same year.

At least a third of the inmates in county lockups spend only two weeks behind bars, says Grace Philips, the general counsel for the New Mexico Association of Counties. But plenty of inmates "languish inside" as they face state charges and transportation to state prisons. It's an amount of time that can last between one month and as long as one year, often leaving the county governments picking up the tab.

Exacerbating the problem is a third of the inmates incarcerated in county detention facilities require psychotropic drugs, claims Philips, who explains that the number was derived from a study last year of Bernalillo County's jail population, which served as a representative example of the entire jail population across New Mexico. 

Now comes the financial ramifications: One dollar in every $3 to house said inmates comes from the general operating fund of all 33 counties in the state. As such, the inmate population has become “a moving target,” Philips says, making the jail population unpredictable as it pertains to costs.

“What it means is that that we’re spending a whole lot of money to lock up a whole lot of people, and that detention facilities in the counties are expensive to run,” says Philips, who plans on releasing a report at a legislative hearing in the Roundhouse on Tuesday, Dec. 1, when the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee convenes. The committee meeting is scheduled to start Monday and end Wednesday.

There's no better gauge of what’s going on at the county level than listening to Philips and the association, which has been on a roll these days in its effort to hold the state accountable for its funding obligation, as it pertains to county detention facilities.

In recent weeks, the association has been convincing county commissions across New Mexico to pass resolutions asking the state to meet its financial promises. By law, the state was to set aside $5 million to help the counties house the excessive number of inmates, but last year’s funding was reduced to $2.9 million, and the year before, only $3.3 million was allocated.

“It’s a legal obligation, not a budgetary one,” Philips says, referring the Detention Facilities Reimbursement Act, passed by the Legislature in 2007. The act created a special fund accessible by all counties to deal with three particular sets of inmates: parole violators, inmates who are sentenced to prison and are waiting to be transferred, and offenders who are jointly supervised by probation and parole officers.

Santa Fe County did its part a few weeks ago, passing the resolution unanimously, but resolutions are a dime a dozen, and its unknown whether the state will step up in the face of greater financial woes. Detention facilities may not be a high priority on the county's list, according to Philips.

In Farmington, San Juan County signed on to the same resolution, which outlined the association's four legislative priorities.

Yet a third of the inmate population in all counties are made up of this trio of individuals, who, Philips says, often languish in the system waiting for trial.

“Some of them sit inside for a long period of time,” she explains. “And they make up a good chunk of the population.”

Philips should know, because she filed a lawsuit against the state in 2006 on behalf of the counties after San Miguel County was having a hard time, financially speaking, housing its inmates, which led the New Mexico Court of Appeals to rule that the state was partially responsible for such detentions, because the state prison system was their ultimate destination.

As a result, though, the county has had to foot the bill, which often includes medical care while inmates sit inside the detention facilities, not to mention the cost of transporting them to and from the courts, all of which adds up, says Philips.

“In reality, the state should be increasing the funding, not reducing it,” says Philips, who has been with the association since 2006; prior to that, she worked for Santa Fe County, where she became a guru in legal matters as they pertain to inmate detention and civil rights.

Just how the Legislature will react during next year’s session, as it relates to the mentally ill jail population along with its financial obligations to the counties, remains to be seen, but the process begins this Tuesday morning in room 322, starting at 9:30 am.

Powder to the People

Santa Fe Ski Basin reporting most snow in two decades, thanks to ‘Godzilla El Nino’

Local NewsWednesday, November 25, 2015 by Thomas Ragan

Get ready to lock and load up on the Santa Fe ski basin. Either step right into the straps, without missing a beat, as you come off the lift, or do the dirty and fall to the ground and grunt as you snap into your snowboard, your stomach the only thing standing between you and the pull of gravity. 

Unless, of course, you gracefully slide off the chair on parallel skis.

The ski season is about begin on Thanksgiving, and basin operators are saying they haven't recorded as much early snow in two decades. As a result, 90 percent of the mountain and 76 of the 79 trails are scheduled to be open, courtesy of 58 inches of snowfall, Benny Abruzzo, president and general manager of Ski Santa Fe, tells SFR.

Abruzzo predicts a very powdery year and a well-attended holiday season to go along with what he says are heavy sales on pre-season passes, which exceed last year's by about 30 percent.

“The snow started out warm and dense and built its way up, so we’re super excited,”  says Abruzzo, who not only runs the basin at 12,000 feet but also gets to make a few of the test runs, one of the perks of the job. “We will have groomed all of the trails, and I anticipate fun powder in the trees. They predicted a Godzilla El Niño year, and so far it looks like the weather service has this one pegged.”

The Pajarito Mountain operators are equally hyped and plan to open the day after Thanksgiving, dubbing the big debut as "White Friday," in a press release issued early Wednesday morning. Just 16 inches of snow have fallen on the Los Alamos mountain, but that hasn't taken away from the excitement.

“This is a historical moment,” says James Coleman, managing partner of Pajarito Mountain. “It’s the first time Pajarito has been able to utilize a significant amount of water from the well system for snowmaking efforts and open earlier than in recent history.”

Located about 40 miles from Santa Fe, Pajarito typically opens on or around Dec. 20, conditions permitting.

At the Santa Fe ski basin, Abruzzo says a bad year sees between 75 to 100 inches of snow, while an average year gets up to 200 inches. The fact that the mountain is already at nearly 60 inches, he claims, is promising. 

"And the season hasn’t even begun," says Abruzzo. "We could be looking at a 300-inch year."

Meantime, where Mother Nature fails, snow-making machines always come to the rescue, picking up the slack. So far, according to Abruzzo, nearly 7 million gallons of water have been converted to snow, adding to the overall base in minuscule sums at the bottom of the mountain.

“It helps to give us super coverage on most of the lower mountain and the main trails and the beginner hill,” he says.

Even as locals get ready to abandon dinner tables and hit the mountain, Texans and Oklahomans, always the first on the hill from now until Christmas, will be reaping the benefits as they snow-plow down the bunny run.

“I expect a great season,” Abruzzo says. “Thanksgiving is just the beginning.”

Talkin' Alcohol Policy

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