Last day at the Legislature
Lawmakers will wrap up this year's 30-day session, theoretically intended to focus solely on fiscal matters (key word being theoretically) today at noon. Some bills made it through before the final hours, such as Senate Bill 131, which raises the age for buying tobacco products to 21; House Bill 83, which creates an Early Childhood Education Trust Fund; and the controversial Senate Bill 5, extreme-risk protection order legislation that will allow law enforcement officers to confiscate weapons from people deemed by the courts to pose a threat to themselves or others. Yesterday, the state Senate approved on a 35-7 vote a $7.6 billion budget plan that would increase general fund spending by nearly 8%; the House approved the budget—which now goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham—at approximately 1 am after a fracas between Republican leadership and House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe ($TNM).
City committee will interview Midtown finalists
A City of Santa Fe committee charged with evaluating the three final master developers for the Midtown campus will interview all the candidates—Central Park Santa Fe, KDC Real Estate Development and Investments/Cienda Partners, and Raffles Education Corp. of Singapore—today in back-to-back interviews ($TNM). Project manager Daniel Hernandez told League of Women Voters meeting attendees yesterday that all the finalists will be asked about: affordable housing, infrastructure, sustainability, public-private partnerships and open space, among other issues. Hernandez says the goal is to choose a master developer by April 1, negotiate terms and finalize an agreement—preferably one in which the city sells the 64-acre property to the developer—by the end of the year.
Wildfire suppression efforts create jobs
A US Geological Survey report says work to reduce the threat of wildfires and protect water sources in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado has also been economically beneficial for the region. Researchers evaluated a public/private partnership, Rio Grande Water Fund, which in 2018 paid regional contractors $855,000. That in turn supported an estimated 22 jobs, more than $1 million in labor income and $1.9 million in benefits to the area's economy. The Nature Conservancy, which created the partnership, says the work's economic impact in a five-year period was approximately $18 million. "We've always known the water fund created jobs to get the work done. Now, we know the true economic impact," said Steve Bassett, head of planning and data analysis for the advocacy group.
Mayor Webber supports Bloomberg
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber says his support in the Democratic presidential primary for Michael Bloomberg comes down to one thing: "The issue is who can beat Donald Trump, and for me, [former New York City Mayor] Bloomberg has the greatest capacity to attract the disaffected Republicans, the independent voters, as well as the traditional Democratic base to win in November." ($TNM). Webber is part of Bloomberg's "Mayors for Mike" political coalition ($NYT), and is featured on Bloomberg's website saying, in part: "His record of accomplishment is unmatched. He takes on big issues—like climate change—and gets things done." Webber's endorsement of Bloomberg, a billionaire and former Republican has earned mostly scathing criticism from constituents, particularly in this Facebook thread. Bloomberg, whose debate performance last night in Las Vegas, Nevada was considered unimpressive, has faced significant criticism for a stop and frisk policy that targeted minorities during his tenure as mayor of New York City.
In Episode 23 of "Your New Mexico Government," a podcast devoted to the 54th Legislature, New Mexico PBS correspondent Gwyneth Doland joins host Khalil Ekulona to talk about the bills that have passed so far and the ones that look like they will have to wait until next year as the session comes to a close. "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between SFR, New Mexico PBS and KUNM radio.
Need more ear-candy? SFR's "Reported" podcast brings you Season 2 Episode 10: Part 1: Before the Prison Mirror. Rising local artist John Paul Granillo tells the first part of the story few people in Santa Fe know: how he participated in one of the largest bank robberies in New Mexico history. The podcast accompanies this week's SFR cover story by Katherine Lewin.
Living Wage rises next month
Santa Fe's minimum wage will increase to $12.10 an hour, a raise of 2.6%, effective March 1. The new rate applies to all workers in Santa Fe, based on the City of Santa Fe's 2007 Living Wage Law. In a news release about the increase, the city notes that the increase is based on a 12-month total increase of 2.6% in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Western Region for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers for 2019. Last year, the Living Wage was $11.80 an hour.
Documenting Indigenous masters
In 2019, the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts awarded Ungelbah Dávila Shivers its Discovery Fellowship for a photography project, Indigenous Masters, that would "document and celebrate the artists and leaders who are changing how the dominant society sees us and how we see ourselves," Shivers writes in a recent New Mexico Magazine article. She shares some of these portraits and her reflections on her subjects, who include artists Rose B Simpson, Virgil Ortiz and Kaa Folwell. "In working on this project, I am not just learning about generational techniques and cultural philosophies," Shivers writes, "but witnessing a rebirth of our truths as individuals, communities, and participants in a 500-year narrative of survival."
One month ’til spring
Spring may officially not kick off until March 19, but it sure is starting to feel like it. Today will start out mostly cloudy, then gradually become sunny, with a high near 41 and southeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Forecasts also predict Friday will be partly sunny with highs near 49. Where's the precipitation, you ask? Allegedly coming this weekend: Currently, Saturday holds an 80% chance of showers and Sunday has a 40% chance. And those showers will likely be rain, as temps will be in the high 40s and low 50s.
Thanks for reading! The Word has an unfortunate predilection for both schadenfreude (albeit only periodically, when blue) and inside-baseball journalism stories, which is why she's reading this story on "The Chaos at Condé Nast" ($NYT) with a bit too much glee.