Morning Word

APS Fires Former House Majority Leader

Tony Hillerman adaptation now filming in Santa Fe

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 827 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 232,614. DOH has designated 202,502 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 179 new cases, followed by Lea County with 125 and San Miguel County with 81. Santa Fe County had 35 new cases.

The state also announced six additional deaths; there have now been 4,518 total fatalities. As of yesterday, 406 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 12 more than Monday.

Currently, 77.4% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 67.6% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 59.5% people have had at least one dose and 47.1% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 88.9% have had at least one dose and 78.6% are fully vaccinated.

DOH Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase, Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón and state Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross will provide an update on COVID-19 at 1 pm today via the DOH Facebook page.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

APS fires former state House leader

Albuquerque Public Schools fired former House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton yesterday amid federal and state investigations of alleged criminal activity. Stapleton, first elected to the Legislature in 1995, resigned from the state House of Representatives and from her position as majority floor leader in early August, following news of the investigation of her potential involvement in an illegal scheme worth millions of dollars of public money. She had been on administrative leave from APS, where she was director of Occupational Education for close to $80,000 per year. APS confirmed her dismissal but would not comment, citing state privacy laws related to personnel decisions. Stapleton’s lawyer also did not comment on her dismissal. She has yet to be charged with any crime, and denied wrongdoing in her resignation letter from the Legislature.

Hillerman adaptation filming in NM

Dark Winds, a six-episode television series based on Tony Hillerman’s iconic Leaphorn & Chee Navajo tribal police mystery novels, is currently in production in Santa Fe and will film here, as well as around Española, Pueblo of Cochiti, Pueblo of Tesuque, and the Navajo Nation through November 2021. The show is expected to premiere on AMC+ and AMC in 2022, and will employ approximately 200 New Mexico crew members and over 275 New Mexico background and extras. The series “follows two Navajo Police Officers as their search for clues in a grisly double murder case leads them deeper into the mysticism of Navajo spirituality and closer to the sins of their past,” according to a news release from the state Film Office. Many of New Mexico’s most notable film professionals are involved with the project, with Chris Eyre both directing the pilot and serving as executive producer, and Robert Redford, and George R.R. Martin also serving as executive producers. The series stars Zahn McClarnon, Noah Emmerich and Kiowa Gordon. “We thank New Mexico and the Navajo Nation for welcoming us so graciously,” Eyre said in a statement. “There is no better community or location that could properly serve the authentic storytelling, look, and feel necessary for Dark Winds. This was our first and only choice, and we’re overwhelmed with the abundance of phenomenal talent and crew we are able to work alongside here.”

State offers $50,000 to settle GRT lawsuit

The state Taxation and Revenue Department yesterday announced it will pay $50,000 to settle a 2018 lawsuit brought by 44 counties and municipalities—including Santa Fe—that said the state had shorted them on their shares of Gross Receipts Tax revenue, and argued the department, under a previous administration, had improperly distributed GRT prior to July 1, 2015, when the distribution statute was amended. Under the settlement agreement, the plaintiffs—all of which must agree to the settlement—would share in a one-time distribution of $50 million. No changes would be made to the current distribution formula under the settlement agreement. “Local governments deserve to have confidence in how their tax revenues are handled, and we’ve been able to demonstrate to them that the system is working,” Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said in a statement. To that end, the news release says, the current administration over the last several years has: hired a local government liaison; providing access to financial reports; and instituted a more robust auditing procedure for the state’s automated tax administration system.

Listen up

What kind of governance would work well in an Interplanetary setting? That’s the question guiding the most recent episode of Santa Fe Institute’s Alien Crash Site podcast series, a speculative interview series from SFI’s InterPlanetary Project. The episode spotlights Timiebi Aganaba, an assistant professor of Space and Society at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. And while you’re in a space mindset, be sure to check out SFI’s most recent ATLANTIS dispatch, issued in the wake of Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos’ forays into outer space, which contemplates “space mavericks.”

In the running

We already knew Santa Fe was a great environment for running if, say, you were training for the Olympics. But it turns out it’s pretty nice for everyone. In fact, Runners Need has just named Santa Fe the very best city for runners and outdoor exercise, ahead of Madison, Wisconsin and St. Petersburg, Florida, which came in second and third. The study also lists Santa Fe as the seventh safest city for runners and notes that residents rank 11th in the country for having some of the best access to “green spaces and parks in the country.” We also scored high for pollution rates and traffic (the lack thereof), and, a news release notes, “above Albuquerque in every category in the study” (Albuquerque ranked 33rd overall). The only category in which Santa Fe does not appear in the top 20 is the number of running events (we ranked 24th). To rank cities and towns, the Runners Need study says it looked at factors such as air pollution, traffic and the number of green spaces for runners to explore.

Local actor talks upcoming outlaw role

The forthcoming film Apache Junction had been just a few weeks into production in March, 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down filming at Eaves Movie Ranch. Directed by Justin Lee and starring Thomas Jane, Scout Taylor-Compton and Stuart Townsend, the film eventually finished filming at Joshua Tree in California and is due out on Sept. 24 in both theaters and video. The story follows a reporter (Scout Taylor-Compton) as she travels to the Apache Junction, a lawless outpost, with a plan to write an article about its resident killers and thieves. New Mexico-based actor Ricky Lee (Cree and Lakota) plays Wasco, Townsend’s roommate and sidekick outlaw. Lee—who has appeared in movies like Hell or High Water and The Ridiculous 6— got this role unexpectedly, he tells SFR in an interview this week. “So I have a friend who lives here, an actress who lives in town, and she calls me up at 11, 12 o’clock at night, and she says ‘Richard, you have to come to [El Dorado Hotel & Spa]. I’m sitting down with these producers and directors, and they want to see you.’ I said ‘I’m going to bed,’ but she calls me back and says ‘Come. Back. Now.’ So I get dressed, go down there, walk in the door—and they hire me.”

Grab your umbrella

Today should be rainy, according to the National Weather Service, which forecasts a 90% chance for showers and thunderstorms, mainly after noon. Temperature wise, look for a high near 75 degrees with east wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. More rain tonight before midnight. Western portions of the state are under flood watch.

Thanks for reading! The Word will be playing Survive the Century as soon as she wraps today’s newsletter (read more about it here).

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