Colorado treasure hunter David Harold Hanson of Colorado Springs is suing Santa Fean Forrest Fenn for $1.5 million, alleging the latter's fraudulent statements have deprived Hanson of Fenn's hidden treasure ($TNM). Recap: Treasure hunters have been searching for a chest of hidden gold and jewels for close to a decade, using clues left by Fenn in his autobiography The Thrill of the Chase. Hanson alleges, in a Monday filing in US District Court, that Fenn issued misleading clues that led him astray, and gave out additional clues to another searcher, which were beneficial. The search for Fenn's gold has led to much speculation about its existence, as well as tragic deaths.
The state general fund's $8 billion income for the fiscal year that ended June 30 is $85 million higher than previously predicted by state economists. A Legislative Finance Committee report shows income also rose higher than had been forecast in July and August—by $21 million. Oil production and concomitant jobs and construction are contributing to the increased funds, which the state is using for salaries and infrastructure projects.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that public employee pension reform will be a top priority in the 2020 legislative session. Lawmakers will hear details on the proposal today at the Investments and Pensions Oversight Committee. Those proposals, according to a press release from the governor's office, grew out of recommendations from the pension solvency task force, and would deliver an increased cost-of-living adjustment to 30% of PERA retirees, among other components. Think tank Think New Mexico also released a report earlier this year with recommendations on improving retirement security for all New Mexicans, as well as ones for public employee pensions.
Hitting the road
City of Santa Fe Land Use Director Carol Johnson and her husband Kevin Kellogg, the city's asset manager, announced their resignations yesterday, effective mid-month. Their resignations and pending departure from Santa Fe comes just a few weeks after being red-tagged by an inspector ($TNM) in Johnson's department for un-permitted work on their home. Johnson said they will move to Oregon by the end of the month to provide urgent care for a family member. Mayor Alan Webber praised both Johnson and Kellogg , saying: "They are both going to be missed, and I wish them only the best as they move to take care of their family."
Monday night explosion
A Monday night explosion followed by a fire on West Cibola Circle off of Old Las Vegas Highway may have been caused by an exploding propane tank, according to the homeowner. The official cause of the explosion remained under investigation as of yesterday, according to a spokesman from the state Fire Marshal's Office. No one was injured as a result of the explosion, which took place in an unoccupied guest house owned by James "Buck" Buchanan, but it damaged both the occupied house on the same lot, as well as his neighbor's home. "It felt like an airplane was hitting our house in the middle of the night," neighbor Ilse Bolle said.
Tackling early education
Searchlight New Mexico spent time with the state's new—and first—secretary for the new Early Childhood Education and Care Department for a recent interview. Elizabeth Groginsky, who comes to Santa Fe from Washington, DC, will oversee a department taking on health and education services for children under age 5. Groginsky's appointment is pending state Senate approval, and the departments's requested funding of $447 million—also pending legislative approval—won't kick in until July 1. In DC, Groginsky worked as assistant superintendent of early learning for the district's education department.
KUNM spoke this week with Rio Grande SUN News Editor Austin Fisher about the US Environmental Protection Agency's decision to end funding for cleanup of a superfund site of toxic chemicals in Española. The EPA's own records show the worst contaminants remain underground in residential areas: "There are houses. There is Española's downtown main drag, which is called Paseo de Oñate, which includes the Española Community Market, which is a food co-op, the Española Fitness Center, Las Cumbres office is there, where children go to class, where people go to get services," says Fisher, who has been covering the situation.
Merry and bright
Finally, the moment we have all been waiting for (or, well, some of us): New Mexico's Christmas tree has reached the country's capitol. And now it's time to party. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with the entire congressional delegation, will gather today for the official tree lighting at 3 pm MT. The ceremony will include remarks from US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM and US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of District 3. Representatives from Carson National Forest also will be present, as will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Architect of the Capitol, Thomas J. Carroll III. The tree, which traversed the country before reaching Washington, DC to serve as this year's "People's Tree," is a 60-foot blue spruce that will be decorated with more than 10,000 ornaments made by New Mexico children and community members. Finally, Arroyo Seco fourth-grader Asher Dean, who won this year's US Capitol Christmas Tree Essay Contest, will help light the tree. Farmington native Chevel Shepherd, who won Season 15 of The Voice, will perform. You can watch the event on the US Capitol Christmas tree Facebook page.
Basically: not sunny
Today will feature isolated rain and show showers early, and then be mostly cloudy for the rest of the day—except in the late afternoon, when it will become partly cloudy. Highs in the upper 40s. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Tonight we're back to mostly cloudy, isolated rain showers, scattered rain and snow showers after midnight with lows in the lower 30s. More of the same tomorrow in terms of weather nouns + adverbs: clouds/wind/rain/snow: isolated/scattered/ mostly/partly.
Thanks for reading! The Word apologizes for mis-identifying state Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, as a state representative in Monday's newsletter. As Stewart rightly points out, she has not been a state representative for five years. Sometimes, in the early morning hours, the Word resides in the gentle distant past.