Morning Word

Santa Fe Police Chief Announces Retirement

PED: Only 10% of students tested in the spring

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,548 new COVID-19 cases for the three-day period of Sept. 25-27, bringing the statewide total so far to 250,774. DOH has designated 221,152 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 452 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 142 and Doña Ana County with 110. Santa Fe County had 71 new cases.

The state also announced 15 additional deaths, 13 of them recent; there have now been 4,764 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 273 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 41 fewer than Friday.

Currently, 79.8% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 70.4% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-to-17-year-old age group, 63.7% people have had at least one dose and 54.2% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 90.9% have had at least one dose and 80.9% are fully vaccinated.

DOH yesterday published its guidelines for those eligible for and seeking a Pfizer vaccine booster shot. While New Mexico COVID-19 vaccine providers can start providing the Pfizer booster dose to eligible patients immediately, the health department is asking them to prioritize people 65 years old and over and those who are 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions. The new guidelines also allow boosters for: people aged 18 to 49 years with underlying medical conditions; people 18 to 64 years who at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting, include frontline health care workers and teachers; and people over 18 who reside in long-term care facilities.

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

SFPD Chief announces retirement

Santa Fe Police Chief Andrew Padilla announced yesterday he will be retiring on Dec. 3 after more than 21 years with the department. Padilla, who started with SFPD as a patrol officer in 2000 after serving in the United States Marine Corps, served as its chief for the last three and a half years. According to a city news release, that makes him the longest serving chief in the last 18 years. In a statement, Padilla thanked SFPD’s officers: “I have so much respect for the work they do each day. They go above and beyond daily, and sacrifice so much to keep this city safe. They have stuck together and supported each other during these tough times. I continue to remind everyone to respect each other, show compassion, and listen before you make a decision.” (Padilla expressed similar sentiments at Zozobra when we asked him what his gloom would be were he to write some down). A news release cites Padilla’s accomplishments during his tenure to include: several initiatives involving local youth; department-wide crisis intervention training and counseling services for police personnel; pay raises for officers; $15,000 signing bonuses for lateral officers; and body camera project approval. “Chief Padilla’s service is commendable,” Director of Community Health and Safety Kyra Ochoa said. “He has brought innovative approaches to tackling complex issues facing policing today, while creating stability in a department that had seen a high level of turnover in the Chief position.” Padilla’s tenure under Mayor Alan Webber has also had its share of controversies, ranging from criticisms over SFPD’s role in the toppling of the Plaza obelisk to an ongoing lack of transparency regarding police disciplinary records.

PED won’t publish test results

New Mexico’s Public Education Department won’t be releasing statewide spring standardized test results publicly and will submit them to the federal government with the caveat “that the data is statistically unreliable for purposes of comparison,” a Monday news release notes. That’s because only 10% of third-to-eighth graders and only 25% of high school juniors took assessment tests in 2021 after the state received a waiver from the federal education department. Typically, students in grades three through eight take the Measures of Student Success and Achievement test, while high school juniors take the SATs. The waiver, however, allowed the state to test students “to the greatest extent possible” instead of meeting the usual requirement of 95% participation. Subsequently, approximately 14,000 of the 143,500 enrolled students in those grades participated in testing, and 6,088 of more than 24,300 11th-graders took the SAT. PED data indicates just 3% of Santa Fe Public Schools participated in testing. In response, the state is now urging schools to test students in the fall in order to “establish a reliable baseline to combat any learning gaps that may have occurred” and “guide educational catch-up efforts.” In a statement, Education Secretary Designate Kurt Steinhaus said PED is prepared to support districts in fall testing. “These tests will be used only to provide educators with a broader baseline to determine where students stand after 18 months of pandemic-related disruptions so we can address any learning gaps and assure that all our kids are on track for academic and life success,” he said.

NM lags in police use-of-force data

State lawmakers yesterday heard an update on police reforms across the country. Amber Widgery, a program principal in the National Conference of State Legislatures Criminal Justice program, provided an overview to members of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, who are meeting through Wednesday. Among the takeaways: Before 2015, at least two states—North Carolina and Oregon—required the collection of data for all cases where deadly force was used. By May 2020, at least 21 states were collecting use of force data. In addition, at least 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws relating to the investigation or prosecution of use of force by law enforcement. New Mexico, however, neither requires such data collection nor was it listed has having laws to investigate or prosecute such uses of force by police. Committee members, however, indicated they are interested in creating comparable policies for the state. Committee Co-Chairman Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, also acknowledged the state isn’t doing everything other states are doing, but pointed toward the recently passed Civil Rights Act, which eliminated qualified immunity for police officers as a step in the right direction.

Listen up

On the most recent episode of the Hot and Dry podcast—which focuses on climate change’s impact on the Southwest—Pueblo Action Alliance Director Julia Fay Bernal (Sandia Pueblo) talks about the Water Back movement, described by the Alliance as “a Pueblo Indigenous feminist perspective” that “can protect water resources and provide solutions for water conservation in the wake of climate change.” Bernal also talks with hosts Collin Haffey and Page Buono about her recent experience traveling to DC to deliver a totem and check in on “Auntie Deb,” aka US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

Going green

Thrillist asks New Mexico chefs for tips in a roundup of eight ways of use Hatch green chile, noting just how seriously we take our favorite crop: “The official state question is ‘Red or green?’ and it may be the only state that discusses Christmas—the colorful practice of adorning your plate with both red and green sauce—no matter the time of year.” True that. This time of year, Hatch green chile takes center stage. “For a native New Mexican, the Hatch chile is an important crop we grew up on,” Gilbert Aragon, executive chef at Heritage Hotels and Resorts, tells Thrillist. “It’s not only a main food ingredient, but an ingredient that’s in recipes that have been passed down for generations. It runs in our blood.” Russell Hernandez, chef and owner of Salud! de Mesilla, notes that Hatch green chile works with lots of different dishes. “Once we put Hatch chiles with some other ingredients in traditional New Mexican food, you just can’t go wrong,” he says. New Mexico chefs’ recommendations will come as no surprise to residents, but include using them in enchiladas, for breakfast and on the rim of a margarita.

Looking for meaning at Meow Wolf

The New York Times reviews Meow Wolf’s latest installation, Denver’s Convergence Station, noting that Meow Wolf “trades on the dark side of American popular culture, in cults and conspiracies, in supernatural beings, extraterrestrials and unsolvable conundrums.” That “spooky stuff,” the newspaper says, “feels right at home” in Santa Fe and Las Vegas, home to the art company’s other installations. After all, “If your goal is to create narratives about underground evildoers, each worthy of their own ‘X-Files’ episode, it helps to set them in places where alien sightings are routine and where the government actually has established secret military test sites. Northern New Mexico and Southern Nevada were creepy long before Meow Wolf arrived.” Alrighty then. Meanwhile, in our ostensibly less creepy neighbor Denver, writer Ray Mark Rinaldi finds Meow Wolf’s “ominous themes an awkward fit.” While anyone “looking to get their mind blown, and then blown again, will deem Meow Wolf a thrilling fun house,” Rinaldi says, Denver—which he describes as a “good-mood city founded on American optimism and sustained by Western exuberance,” doesn’t seem quite the right setting for Meow Wolf’s “eerie aura.” Rather, Rinaldi had hoped for “something more connected to place, less corporate.” Rinaldi also found it hard to parse the meaning in the installation or individuate artists’ contributions. That may not deter crowds—reportedly 35,000 tickets sold in 24 hours earlier this month in advance of opening. But for Rinaldi, “it is the brand’s trademark spookiness that defines the place. If Meow Wolf actually is art, I struggle to find meaning in it.”

Chilling out

The National Weather Service forecasts a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms today, mainly after noon. Otherwise, it will be mostly cloudy with a high near 65 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the morning. The whole week looks cool, with chances for precipitation amping up on Thursday.

Thanks for reading! The Word is reading up on Fat Bear Week and preparing to vote.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.