Gov signs gun law
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law yesterday so called "red flag" legislation that will allow for the confiscation of weapons from people deemed threats to themselves or others. She also said that county sheriffs who opposed the bill during the legislative session should resign if they don't plan to enforce the law. Senate Bill 5, the Extreme Risk Firearm Order Protection Act, lets law enforcement request from the courts emergency orders to remove such weapons; the weapons are returned when the order expires. "New Mexico has balanced individual rights and public safety in a responsible way that will reduce our unacceptable suicide rate and other forms of gun violence," Gov. Lujan Grisham said in a statement. Nonetheless, New Mexico Sheriffs' Association President Tony Mace of Cibola County said he and fellow sheriffs will implement the law as they see fit. "We don't work for the governor, we don't work for the Legislature," he said. "We work for the people that elected us into office." The law takes effect May 20.
Board rules against mural
After a 2 1/2 hour hearing, Santa Fe's Historic Districts Review Board yesterday decided that property owner Guthrie Miller has to take down the mural on his wall at Old Pecos Trail and Camino Lejo ($TNM). Arizona-based Navajo artist and activist Remy created and executed the mural, which depicts and connects the oppression of Palestinians and Native Americans. However, the hearing over the mural was focused not on its content but, rather, whether the materials used to make the mural (papier-mâché applied to a stuccoed exterior yard wall) conform with historic standards for the district. The board upheld the city land use director's decision that they do not. Public testimony nevertheless touched on the mural's contents, as well as the larger issue of public art in Santa Fe. The topic has come into focus as the result of this mural controversy along with the ordered destruction of a second mural in the Guadalupe district. Miller may challenge the board's decision in District Court.
Ethics commission wants in on Padilla case
The new State Ethics Commission wants to join the state Attorney General in requesting that the New Mexico Court of Appeals reverse the dismissal of criminal charges against former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla. In a news release earlier this week, the Commission announced it had filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the State v. Padilla, for which the AG filed felony embezzlement and Governmental Conduct Act counts against Padilla, as well as several misdemeanor counts. Padilla's attorneys argued the Governmental Conduct Act charges are not criminally enforceable, and State District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer agreed. That is the decision under appeal. The Ethics Commission statement says it does not have a position on the allegations against Padilla but, rather, is looking for the court to clarify that the Governmental Conduct Act creates "real and enforceable duties for legislators, public officials, and public employees."
State settles with Exxon
ExxonMobil will pay $500,000 to settle a 2010 lawsuit with the State of New Mexico. The lawsuit, filed by a whistleblower, alleges that ExxonMobil obtained reimbursement from the New Mexico Corrective Action Fund to clean up leaking petroleum storage tanks while also having collected insurance money for the same costs. ExxonMobil denies these allegations. According to an Environment Department news release, the fund "provides funding for the clean-up and monitoring of petroleum storage tank leaks and spills around the state" and "is often the only way leaks from petroleum storage tanks can be cleaned up, as many former tank owners and operators are financially unable to fund clean-up activities." ExxonMobil also will pay more than $143,000 to the state attorney general, more than $143,000 to the state's general fund and approximately 25% of the total $1.05 million settlement to the whistleblower who alerted the state ($TNM).
One small step, plus a deposit
Virgin Galactic is gearing up to release new seats for sale to people interested in flying to outer space. In a news release, the company says that process's first phase launches today with a new "One Small Step" that will allow "those who are serious about flying to space to register now and be front of line for firm seat reservations, once they become available." According to Virgin Galactic, the company ended ticket sales after its first spaceflight in December 2018. Since then, it has taken more than 600 firm reservations from 60 countries, and heard from close to 8,000 interested and prospective customers. Serious future customers can register their interest today by paying a fully refundable $1,000 deposit and registering here. No information about when such seats might open up or how much they might cost is available at this time.
Film Office hires new director
City of Albuquerque Film Liaison Amber Dodson will become the state's new Film Office director as of March 9, replacing Todd Christensen. Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes announced the appointment yesterday. "New Mexico has become a world-class production destination and Amber Dodson has shown she has the skills and vision to lead the Film Office as it takes on new challenges to be the best in the industry," Keyes said. A news release notes that Dodson has more than 20 years experience in the entertainment, media and tech industries, and that during her tenure as Albuquerque's film liaison, the city was ranked No. 1 by MovieMaker Magazine for "Best Place to Live and Work as a MovieMaker: Big Cities" for two consecutive years, and was chosen by Deadline as its inaugural location for the international "HotSpots" event series. "I am excited to implement my hands-on industry knowledge and my experience in government and collaborate with the great team already in place at the New Mexico Film Office to showcase New Mexico and all we have to offer," Dodson said.
Faces of resilience
Albuquerque photographer Frank Blazquez documents the lives of young New Mexicans living day-to-day with gun violence. In a photo essay for the Guardian, Blazquez writes: "I often hear large caliber gunfire before going to sleep, contemplating the individual scenarios producing every round: family disputes born out of low-income living, deteriorating public schools and relentless opioid abuse. Perhaps a statement from an Albuquerque teenager I recently photographed can explain it better: 'I don't feel nervousness because I have nothing to lose. I've been ready to die since day one.'" Blazquez' work is part of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's State of the Art 2020 exhibition in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Fair weather, friends
Things are looking up! And by things, we mean temperatures. Today will be sunny, with a high near 42. Much less windy: east wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Tomorrow, highs could hit 51 degrees, then 55 on Friday and close to 60 on Saturday. Speaking of Saturday, is it Saturday yet? At any rate, don't break out the bathing suits: Forecasts still call for a chance of snow at the beginning of next week. Also, this is Santa Fe, so chances of snow remain for the next three months.