Morning Word

Santa Fe Mayoral Candidates Spar Over Obelisk

Health officials report 1,786 new COVID-19 cases over three-day period and 14 more deaths

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,786 new COVID-19 cases for the three-day period of Sept. 11-13, bringing the total number of cases to 241,663; DOH has designated 210,189 of them as recovered. Bernalillo County had 491 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 145 and Sandoval County with 139. Santa Fe County had 61 new cases.

The state also announced 14 additional deaths, ranging in age from their 30s to their 80s; there have now been 4,619 total fatalities. As of yesterday, 320 people were hospitalized with COVID-19—50 fewer than Friday.

Currently, 78.8% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 69% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 62.3% people have had at least one dose and 51.2% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 90% have had at least one dose and 79.7% are fully vaccinated.

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

Mayoral candidates spar over obelisk, city services

While both housing and the economy continue to be pressing issues for the City of Santa Fe, cultural tensions swiftly emerged as a key topic during last night’s virtual forum between the mayoral candidates in the Nov. 2 municipal election. Both City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Alexis Martinez Johnson criticized incumbent Mayor Alan Webber’s role in the destruction last year of the obelisk on the Plaza, with Vigil Coppler contending the mayor had ordered the police chief to stand down when activists toppled the monument. “That information came directly from inside the Police Department. I have no reason to disbelieve them,” Vigil Coppler said. Webber denied Vigil Coppler’s characterization, saying “I would expect Councilor Vigil Coppler to know more about how the city works than to say something as blatantly false as that.” He further maintained a more positive outlook on the events that transpired at the Plaza on Indigenous People’s Day, saying a police union official had told him after the event “‘We lost the obelisk, but no one was hurt, no one was killed. Everyone went home safely.’”

For her part, Martinez Johnson, who ran on the Republican ticket in last year’s 3rd Congressional District race, cited the destruction of the obelisk by a “mob” as an example of the city’s crime. She named that topic as its most pressing social issue in response to a question from David Fresquez, president of the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the forum. In response to the same question, Vigil Coppler named the city’s growing unhoused population, while Webber pointed to growing inequality: “We are seeing the rich getting richer and the poor falling further behind,” he said. Candidates also discussed unemployment and city services, among other civic issues. The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition will host another public forum for the mayoral candidates on Oct. 4 and 5 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center and via Zoom. For more election related details see SFR’s Santa Fe Election FAQ.

Light bulb moment

In news likely to be celebrated across New Mexico, the state Supreme Court yesterday ruled that vehicles’ tail lamps don’t have to be fully functional to satisfy Motor Vehicle Code requirements that equipment on cars, trucks, trailers and other vehicles be in “good working order and adjustment.” The ruling overturns a previous decision by the state Court of Appeals, which stemmed from an Albuquerque man’s appeal of convictions for drunken driving and operating a vehicle with defective equipment. According to a news release announcing the decision, defendant John Farish “contended a sheriff’s deputy illegally stopped him because of a burned-out tail light bulb. The upper bulb was not working but the lower bulb was emitting light.” In an opinion by Justice C. Shannon Bacon, the court writes that “this case reminds us that not all vehicles on New Mexico’s roads and highways are in perfect condition.” Indeed. The Supreme Court thus concluded that as long as a vehicle’s tail lamp complies with specific equipment requirements in state laws—including emitting enough light to be visible from at least 500 feet—it meets the more general requirement to be in “good working order”—even if has a burned-out bulb.

City breaks ground on Southside Teen Center

The City of Santa Fe will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking at 10 am today at the site of the new Southside Teen Center, approved last week by the City Council. The city expects to begin construction next month on the $9.2 million facility and open the center to the public in May 2023—approximately six months later than originally planned. Located across Country Club Road from the Southside Public Library and adjacent to the Boys & Girls Club, architectural plans presented to the community in May show a three-story, stucco building with a small courtyard, gym, game room, kitchen and several multipurpose rooms. According to a city news release, the center’s allocation of space is based on surveys of teens who were asked what they want and need, with their top “motivations for their choices” being: places to de-stress, stay healthy and build relationships with peers. The center will also promote education and career opportunities; health and wellness; after-school and child care programs; and provide outreach services to benefit the community as a whole, the city says. District 3 City Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta, a longtime advocate for the center, says it will rectify a notable lack of resources for youth in his area. “There’s no place for teens on the Southside to hang out,” he says. “District 4 has the Chavez Center, District 1 has Fort Marcy, District 2 has Salvador Perez. There’s nothing in District 3.” Now, “the teen center is going to be a place where teens can not only come and hang out but hopefully get services they need.” Fellow District 3 Councilor Christopher Rivera, in a statement, also acknowledged the milestone: “Many people have worked on this, including many of our youth, so I am glad for them and can’t wait to see how they make the teen center their own.”

Listen up

The most recent episode of New Mexico PBS’ Our Land takes inspiration from Carl Sagan, who wrote about “cosmic isolationism” in his 1985 novel Contact. Correspondent Laura Paskus travels to Capulin Volcano National Monument in northeastern New Mexico to explore what it means to connect with and protect the night sky with guests: Capulin Volcano National Monument astronomy volunteer Kelly Ricks; Capulin Volcano National Monument park guide Bernard Poskus; and retired physics and astronomy professor Sam Finn.

Ahead of the game

Esquire magazine provides an excerpt from New Mexico writer Abe Streep’s new book, Brothers On Three: A True Story of Family, Resistance, and Hope on a Reservation in Montana, which published last week and has been receiving stellar reviews. For Streep, the story began as a New York Times magazine article about the Arlee Warrior high school basketball team in Montana. In March, 2017, the team brought the high school basketball state championship title home to the Flathead Indian Reservation. But the book, the publisher notes, “is not simply a story about high school basketball, about state championships and a winning team. It is a book about community, and it is about boys on the cusp of adulthood, finding their way through the intersecting worlds they inhabit and forging their own paths to personhood.” Streep has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Outside, The California Sunday Magazine, WIRED and Harper’s, among others. He also wrote one of our all-time top favorite pieces of journalism, “The Legends of Last Place,” about the Santa Fe Fuego. Catch Streep at 6 pm tonight in conversation with Kai-t L.V. Blue-Sky at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St). The event will also be simulcast via Zoom; register here. Pre-order signed copies of Brothers on Three from CW online here or call the store at 505-988-4226.

O’Keeffe in Paris

Perhaps we have taken our proximity to Georgia O’Keeffe’s legacy and work for granted. Apparently, in France, the artist is less well known and the first retrospective of her work in that country opened just last week at The Centre Pompidou. According to French public radio station RFI, the Pompidou Centre borrowed 100 of O’Keeffe’s paintings and drawings from large US institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute and, of course, the Georgia O’Keeffe museum here in Santa Fe, as well from other private collections. Exhibition curator Didier Ottinger describes O’Keeffe to RFI as being “at the forefront of several modern art movements during her long and illustrious career.” Nonetheless, even the Tate only organized the first major exhibition of her work in 2016. “She is elusive to us,” Ottinger says, noting that “There were hardly any modern art pieces from before 1945 in our collections, and they were not studied.” Rather, “we have long considered that American modern art began with Jackson Pollock’s paint drippings in 1947.” The Pompidou Centre itself only owns one O’Keeffe painting Red, Yellow and Black Streak, 1924, but, RFI says, “through this retrospective (through Dec. 6), French museum-goers will now get the chance to do some serious catching up.” Très bien!

Let the sun shine

Prepare for another sunny day, Santa Fe, with a high near 86 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Our forecast remains clear all week, according to the National Weather Service.

Thanks for reading! The Word has gone slightly cross-eyed staring at the dazzling winning entries from the 47th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition (you can read more about the contest here).

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