Morning Word

Santa Fe Mayor’s Race Grows Contentious as Early Voting Begins

Monday shooter charged with attempted murder and multiple other charges

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 540 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 256,115. DOH has designated 227,476 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 154 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 45 and 34 in McKinley County. Santa Fe County had 31 new cases.

The state also announced seven additional deaths, six of them recent and one from Santa Fe County that occurred more than 30 days ago: a female in her 60s who had been hospitalized. There have now been 166 deaths from Santa Fe County and 4,830 statewide. As of yesterday, 352 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 59 more than the day prior.

Currently, 80.4% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 71.1% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64.4% people have had at least one dose and 55.2% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 91.3% have had at least one dose and 81.3% are fully vaccinated.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase, DOH Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón and Workforce Solutions Acting Secretary Ricky Serna will host a remote COVID-19 news conference at 2 pm today, which will stream live on the New Mexico Department of Health Facebook page.

Yesterday, DOH announced it has free COVID-19 printed materials—banners, posters, flyers and postcards—available for local businesses, organizations, community members and schools. You can find all the details about how to order those here.

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

Housing crisis, tension emerge in forum

Santa Fe’s three mayoral candidates returned to the Lensic Performing Arts last night for a second evening of forums, this time to discuss Santa Fe’s housing crisis, as the first day of early voting for the Nov. 2 election began. (Candidates discussed economic and business issues on Monday night for the twin events sponsored by the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition.) Last night’s conversation—ranging on topics from post-pandemic evictions to the Midtown campus plan to the Early Neighborhood Notification process—followed new statistics showing Santa Fe’s housing and rental market continues to pair rising prices with shrinking inventory. Throughout the evening, incumbent Mayor Alan Webber listed achievements of his administration to address the lack of affordable housing, pointing to a $6 million investment in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, along with working with developers and builders to increase the number of units in the city. District 4 City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler underlined her experience as a real estate broker and, when asked about the lack of housing supply and overburdened renters, said the Santa Fe housing market is going through an intense period but will cool off in the future. She also expressed support for ideas such as as rent control and using revenue from forthcoming adult cannabis sales to support the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (an idea Webber also supports). Former Republican 3rd Congressional district candidate Alexis Martinez Johnson in turn sought to distinguish herself from her competitors, and earned some laughs from the audience as she did so. “One is a Realtor and one is, you know, putting these high rise places up all around. We need to ask ourselves, you want high density, is that what you guys want? I didn’t know and I didn’t think they did.”

Certainly, the forum highlighted tension between Vigil Coppler and Webber, particularly during closing statements when the councilor said she would “…never yell at a city councilor. I would never tell her, ‘Don’t get your panties in a twist,’ which is what this mayor did to me.” Vigil Coppler reportedly was referring to an interaction between the two candidates last year. Webber tells SFR via a statement that he does not recall making that comment, only that Vigil Coppler said he had offended her, for which he apologized and told her she was welcome to file a complaint. He says she did not do so. Vigil Coppler’s campaign, however, tells the Santa Fe New Mexican she did file a complaint and “was blown off.” You can read all of SFR’s election coverage here.

Cart away

Abandoned shopping carts have emerged as the City of Santa Fe’s number one complaint, according to a news release yesterday, prompting a new initiative to collect them from around town. The city says it has hired Duke City Carts LLC for a $20,000 pilot project, in which thus far more 600 carts since the start of September have been collected and returned. Shopping carts that are being used as shelter or ones containing the personal belongings of unsheltered individuals are not being collected. According to the city, the pilot program is just the first step to immediately address the issue. The contractor is currently tracking where the carts are found, from which stores they are coming and the number of carts being collected on a weekly basis. According to data provided by the city, the carts come from a variety of the larger supermarkets and retailers—although not all have been identified—with Walmart appearing to account for the largest number thus far. The Community Engagement Department plans to use the data to create a plan. Constituents can report abandoned carts here.

Monday’s shooter faces multiple felony charges

Following Monday’s shooting incidents, lockdowns and manhunt, Jay Wagers, 25, has been charged with 10 felonies and three misdemeanor crimes, including attempted murder and aggravated assault. And while Wagers has not been charged in a separate shooting incident that killed 39-year-old Joseph Aiello early Monday, SFPD Lt. David Webb says police are looking at Wagers as a “person of interest” in that case as well. Court records charging Wagers depict a harrowing scene for police and bystanders in Monday’s incident, in which he allegedly shot an Owl’s Liquors employee through the right temple before running to Baca Street and Cerrillos Road and attempting to carjack several people, in one case shooting through a rear window of a car. The Owl’s employee was taken to a local hospital and then transferred to University of New Mexico Hospital. Wagers has been arrested more than a dozen times since 2014, and convicted on a variety of charges ranging from battery on a police officer to motor vehicle theft to narcotics possession.

Aiello’s murder appears to be the city’s seventh of the year, and comes as SFR reports on SFPD’s underreporting of homicides and other crimes to the FBI. While murders spiked across the country last year according to recently released data (perhaps the highest increase in US history, in fact), Santa Fe’s appeared to plummet to zero. But appearances can be deceiving. While the city did reach a five-year low for homicides last year, it did have three, police underreported homicides and nearly every other crime documented in the 2020 UCR—in some cases by vast margins. SFPD also provided inaccurate numbers in 2019 to the national Uniform Crime Report, a measuring stick the FBI uses to allocate millions through its Justice Assistance Grant. Department officials say they were unaware of the discrepancies until SFR raised them last week; Deputy Chief Ben Valdez says they are committed to ensuring the numbers match in the future. While SFPD did not have a ready explanation for its inaccurate reporting to the FBI, Valdez noted that the state Department of Public Safety administers the UCR program for local entities. DPS, however, says SFPD entered its own data. “Any effort to place the blame on the Department of Public safety would not be true,” DPS spokesman Herman Lovato says.

Listen up

A new study provides evidence from excavated surfaces in White Sands National Park that such human migration in the area dates back to the Ice Age—approximately 23,000 years. In a recent episode of Native America Calling, Indigenous archaeologists talk about this new scientific revelation, and inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in archaeological science. Guests include archeologist Paulette Steeves (Cree, Metis), Canada Research Chair in Healing and Reconciliation at Algoma University and author of The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere; and Jon Shellenberger (Yakama), archaeologist and project director for the Central Washington Anthropological Survey from the Central Washington University and owner of Native Anthro.

Courting Hispanic votes in energy country

Climate change typically tolls higher as a concern for Hispanics or Latinos—except when juxtaposed with job losses. So says Gabe Sanchez, executive director of the University of New Mexico’s Center for Social Policy, in a Washington Post story that examines whether Democrats’ climate goals will threaten their support among some Hispanics, specifically those who live in areas of the country reliant on the oil and gas industry. Sanchez says in energy-producing New Mexico, Texas and Colorado “you’ve had tension for a while.” Latinos and Hispanics “are extremely conscious on climate change and support dang near every progressive policy there is to curb it,” he said. “But you juxtapose that with potential loss of jobs, that’s when you start to see a much more even attitude split.” The Post also cites New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, which it describes as “traditionally conservative…55% Hispanic,” and inclusive of part of the oil-rich Permian Basin. Last year, voters in the district ousted Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small in favor of Republican Yvette Herrell, even after the former challenged President Joe Biden’s stance on the oil industry and opposed a potential ban on fracking.

Soak it up

Many activities pair well with chilly air—sipping hot chocolate, for instance—but perhaps none as satisfyingly as plunging into hot water. Fortunately, New Mexico has many options for those in search of hot springs. New Mexico Magazine offers a fall hot springs round-up that includes local spots Ten Thousand Waves and Ojo Santa Fe Spa, where visitors will find an “oasis” abounding with “spring-fed lagoons, aquatic birds, and koi fish.” Truth or Consequences’ Riverbend Hot Springs makes the list, as does Albuquerque’s Love’s Healing Touch; and Spence Hot Spring near the Village of Jemez, recommended for “a truly primitive hot-spring experience loved by day-trippers and spring-breakers.” We’ll add a few more for your soaking consideration: San Antonio Hot Spring and Montezuma Hot Springs near Las Vegas. At the latter, according to the City of Las Vegas, “centuries ago, native warriors healed their wounds in these springs after battle. It’s said that Jesse James and Billy the Kid probably spent an evening or two relaxing after hours of throwing cards in an old adobe nearby. Visitors to the luxurious Montezuma Hotel in the 1890s came for the precious minerals in rejuvenating waters advertised in promotional books published by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.”

Cross your fingers for rain

We have a slight chance for showers before 9 am today, according to the National Weather Service, and then another slight chance (20%) for showers and thunderstorms between 9 am and noon. Otherwise, it will be mostly sunny, with a high near 73 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. A slight chance for “sprinkles” tonight before 9 pm, as well.

Thanks for reading! The Word needs a break from thinking about politics and crimes and has thus turned her attention to beluga whales.

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