Morning Word

Santa Fe Police Tackle Two Shootings, One Fatal

City of Santa Fe’s late audit reveals ongoing issues

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,776 new COVID-19 cases for the three-day period of Oct. 2-4, bringing the statewide total so far to 255,577. DOH has designated 226,781 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 413 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 256 and 149 in McKinley County. Santa Fe County had 96 new cases.

The state also announced 12 additional deaths, nine of them recent; there have now been 4,823 fatalities. As of yesterday, 293 were hospitalized with COVID-19, a 15.5% decrease from Friday.

The health department reported it was unable to update the vaccine dashboard yesterday due to a technical issue and plans to resume updates today. The previous data shows that 80.1% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 70.8% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64% people have had at least one dose and 54.7% 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.

The state health department has added a tool to its vaccination website that allows recipients of the Pfizer vaccine to determine if they are eligible for a booster.

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

Monday brings two shootings

Two shootings—one fatal—subsumed Santa Fe Police yesterday, leading to hours-long lockdowns for area schools and shelter-in-place orders for residents. At approximately 1:48 am, SFPD responded to the 2700 block of Alamosa Drive where Joseph Aiello, 39, had been shot and killed. According to a news release, the suspect fled on foot before officers arrived on scene, and remains outstanding. Police believe that the suspect and victim were known to each other. Officers and Detectives are still processing the scene, and interviewing witnesses.

Then, at about 1:18 pm, SFPD dispatched to Owl’s Liquors on 913 Hickox Street in response to a call of a male who had been shot. According to another news release, as officers were responding to the area, more calls came in reporting a male with a gun in the area of Baca Street, and another call was received of a male shooting at a vehicle. Officers who had responded to Owl’s Liquors located a male victim who had been shot, who was then transported first to a local hospital and then to University of New Mexico Hospital. Meanwhile, the officers who arrived at Cerrillos and Baca located a victim whose vehicle had been shot. It is believed that the suspect attempted to forcibly steal the victim’s vehicle, and subsequently shot the vehicle as the victim fled the area. It was then reported that the male, still armed with a gun, fled on foot in the direction of the Santa Fe Indian School (1501 Cerrillos Road), at which point a shelter-in-place order was issued, and area schools were placed on lockdown. Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Deputies responded to assist in the search of the suspect and located and detained a male matching the description of the suspect, ultimately identified as Jay Wagers, 25; he was armed with a knife and a handgun at the time of his detention. As of last night, Wagers’ charges had not yet been set as active investigation on the case continues. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Wagers has a history of violent crime in Santa Fe. Police have not yet determined if the two incidents are connected.

Money talks

Santa Fe’s three mayoral candidates shared their visions for the city’s economy during a public forum at the Lensic Performing Arts Center last night, with Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler raising concerns about the city’s delayed 2020 fiscal audit, released yesterday, and discussed by the city’s Finance Committee shortly before the forum began. Auditors from CliftonLarsonAllen found material weakness and significant deficiencies in the city’s financial reporting and reporting on federal programs, with some repeated errors from previous audits. In the city’s response, it said a software conversion combined with understaffing contributed to the issues, and agreed to rectifying measures in the coming months. “I’m very concerned about our city’s audit, our city’s financial accountability,” Vigil Coppler said during last night’s forum. “Today’s audit came out and it’s not a pretty picture.” Mayor Alan Webber countered and described the new audit as “clean,” saying as the city’s first full-time mayor, he inherited a great deal of disorganization. Candidates also discussed public safety, land use and broadband during the forum, with candidate Alexis Martinez Johnson zeroing in on the city’s cannabis zoning process which she alleges failed to receive adequate public input. “I want to hear from the constituents and I really think that an effort was not made, where many people were aware of the zoning that is going to occur in Santa Fe,” she said. “I want to make sure it’s not all just in one area.”

Santa Fe housing, land prices continue to increase

Yesterday, the Santa Fe Association of Realtors reported third quarter housing and land prices, both of which rose. In Santa Fe County, median home prices increased by 19% from $600,000 in 2020 to $714,506 in this quarter. In the city, median home prices grew by 3% from $460,000 in the 3rd quarter of 2020 to $475,000 this quarter. As for land prices, they increased overall by about 37% from $120,000 in the third quarter of 2020 to $164,000 this quarter. “The Santa Fe housing market, like many across the country, continued at a blistering pace with record high sales prices, historic low inventory, multiple offers and strong buyer demand, even in the face of a surge in COVID-19 cases,” SFAR 2021 President Roger Carson said in a statement. “In navigating the challenges of a seller’s market, some buyers have made offers for more than the asking price or waived inspections. Other buyers have decided to put their home searches on hold and rent for the time being, only to find prices and inventory much the same in the rental market.” You can drill down on some of the data released yesterday here and here. And you can hear from the city’s three mayoral candidates at 6 pm tonight on the topic of housing in a public forum co-sponsored by the Coalition for Affordable Housing and the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, at the Lensic and on YouTube.

Listen up

For the month of October, the Augmented Humanity podcast will explore digital black feminism. Hosts Ellen Dornan and Craig Goldsmith kick off the series in a conversation with Catherine Knight Steele, an assistant professor of Communication at the University of Maryland, College Park where she directs the Black Communication and Technology lab as a part of the Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Collaboration, & Optimism (DISCO) Network funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Augmented Humanity is produced by the New Mexico Humanities Council and KUNM.

Stories to tell

Speaking of the New Mexico Humanities Council, it is currently seeking cemetery stories for a live storytelling event Nov. 2. NMHC, along with Historic Fairview Cemetery and the Before I Die NM Festival are accepting—through Oct. 15—stories about life, death and beyond, such as ones about lost loved ones or, perhaps, experiences with loss and grief. Stories should be between 500 to 900 words or four to seven minutes spoken, and you must be available to tell your story on stage Nov. 2. Details here.And in yet another opportunity for local writers, Outside magazine is accepting “survival stories” through Oct. 22. “We’re interested in short stories that pack a punch. Some of our favorite survival tales have been brief but harrowing: an encounter with a mountain lion in the middle of a run, or being stranded at sea for ten days.” Lest your life is more tame than the average Outside contributor, worry not. The magazine also wants to “read about your parenting mishaps and relationship misadventures in the outdoors, or the times that nature helped you endure a difficult aspect of life.” Find the full details here; should your essay be accepted, you’ll be paid $1,000. (The rewards of publishing in SFR are slightly less from a monetary point of view, but ICYMI, our annual writing contest also is open for entries).

Your brain on creativity

As part of its neuroscience series, Technology Networks takes a look at the neuroscience of creativity in an interview with Rex Jung, an assistant professor in the department of neurosurgery and director of neuropsychological services at the University of New Mexico. Jung has been studying creativity for more than a decade, and adheres to a definition created by Morris Stein in the 1950s that “creativity is the production of something novel and useful.” He says this specific, perhaps “rigid” definition is necessary to focus the study of the issue. One example of research undertaken by Jung and his colleagues when working with college students is a cognitive task called divergent thinking in which participants are asked to provide as many uses as they can think of for a brick. “After volunteers have suggested their ideas—be it doorstop, paperweight, lumbar support, tombstone, nutcracker, fish tank furniture, etc., Jung then examines their brain using imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electrical activity monitoring methods like electroencephalography (EEG) that can show how neurons and circuits in the brain are firing. In addition, a technique called fractional anisotropy (FA) can be used to measure the structure of white matter in the brain.”Jung also walks TN through other research on the topic, such as one study in which a San Francisco neurosurgeon crammed a 35-key custom-built piano keyboard inside an MRI scanner. A group of six full-time professional jazz pianists then took turns improvising on the keyboard while lying down in the scanner. “What he found was that the frontal regions of the brain were becoming less active during these creative riffs and improvisational journeys,” Jung says.

Another day in paradise

A lovely fall day should be in the works, according to the National Weather Service, which forecasts mostly sunny skies with a high near 75 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming south in the afternoon. Tonight, we have a 20% chance for showers after midnight.

Thanks for reading! The Word enjoyed Facebook’s six-hour outage yesterday. She spent a few minutes of it watching the awarding of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to US scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch (extra cool because Julius used capsaicin—the compound from chile peppers that creates their burning sensation—to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat).

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