Yesterday, State Auditor Brian Colón said a special audit had revealed close to $3 million in legal settlements from Gov. Susana Martinez's administration that had been approved hastily and hidden from public view. "This is about an abuse of power. It's about a lack of transparency, and particularly as it relates to political appointees by our former governor," Colón said. "We should never settle matters and use taxpayer dollars to protect political interest, political legacies and personal agendas." Colón says he will send the results of the independent audit to the state Attorney General's Office, as well as the new state Ethics Commission and the 1st Judicial District Attorney.
Senators want ICE investigated
US Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, D-NM, sent a joint letter yesterday to the Department of Homeland Security requesting an investigation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. That request follows New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's own letter last month requesting an investigation of conditions at the Otero County Processing Center. "We believe there is an immediate need to investigate conditions and oversight at ICE detention facilities to provide a full accounting surrounding the treatment of individuals in ICE custody," Udall and Heinrich's letter says. "We also believe that ICE should be fully transparent and publicly disclose all relevant information regarding facilities housing ICE detainees, and we continue to push for humane treatment for all detainees."
Tribe reclaims sacred shield
New Mexico tribal leaders announced yesterday the return of a sacred, ceremonial shield that took years and efforts by numerous agencies to recover. The shield, like many Native American items, had been stolen and trafficked to Paris for sale by an auction house. US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, has legislation that would ban the export of Native American ceremonial items to foreign markets. "Our prayers have been answered," Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo said. "I am so grateful that we can do this—that our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren and those not yet born will have the opportunity to continue this way of life and that they will do it with the protection of our sacred shield."
How do you like them apples?
Three Santa Fe Public Schools teachers have received the 2020 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching: Capital High School English teachers Shantel Dixon and Carman Moon, as well as Santa Fe High School AP Biology teacher Richard Pitman. The three were among seven statewide winners ($TNM). They were chosen from 88 teachers nominated, and selected by a committee after classroom observation, as well as interviews with principals, colleagues and parents.
Deep in the weeds
Despite the name, "consumption lounges" are not rooms for folks with tuberculosis to cough together. Rather, they refer to places where customers can socialize with their cannabis (the other name is cannabis lounge, which seems more descriptive and less evocative of a wasting disease). Such lounges face regulatory hurdles, both here and elsewhere. Carly Wolf, state policies coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says "it's really important for regulators to look at this and take that step. You get visiting tourists or people in low-income housing, and they sometimes have to choose between freedom to consume and living in their homes." For more updates on all things cannabis, be sure to check out this month's edition of SFR's Leaf Brief newsletter.
What would Georgia do?
ICYMI, The Washington Post occasioned Georgia O'Keeffe's Nov. 15 birthday with a long essay exploring the landscape of O'Keeffe's life, both literally and geopolitically ($). In her 98 years, O'Keeffe lived through both World Wars, Vietnam, the Cold War and the Great Depression. Alexandra Marvar writes that while O'Keeffe herself said she was "always afraid … she refused to let it stop her from building the life of creativity, security, solitude and self-reliance she wanted. She left New York and found what she needed in a quiet adobe village in the painted desert around the Rio Chama river basin—a small but strong community, a farm-to-table food supply, a nuclear fallout shelter—and then she got on with her work."
Curiosity did not kill the cat
If cats could talk, that would be cool, but also perhaps Sasha would explain surviving the 1,200 mile trip from Portland, Oregon to Santa Fe. The black kitty ended up at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society where a microchip revealed to staff that owner, Viktor Usov, lived in Portland and had reported Sasha missing years ago. SF Animal Shelter Public Relations Officer Murad Kirdar will be taking Sasha home on a plane today via a ticket donated by American Airlines. As for the cat's mysterious journey, Kirad says fellines "…are notorious for jumping U-Hauls, trains and cars" (they are?) but "how [he] managed to survive to get here is the million dollar question."
Mostly sunny today, with a high near 62. North wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Tonight, however, Santa Fe has a 40% chance of rain with scattered showers primarily after 11 pm. Chance of precipitation tomorrow currently at 80%, with showers and maybe even a thunderstorm before 11 am. High near 52. More rain could come Wednesday night, into Thursday and Thursday evening. If all this rain has you excited, and you want to help observe the precipitation, here's info on the NWS's Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network.
Thanks for reading! The Word is looking forward to the Jim Henson exhibition at The Albuquerque Museum.