Morning Word

Proposal Would Lift Double-Dipping Ban on Cops

Santa Fe slow to polls in early voting; District 4 City Council candidate plead guilty to fraud

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 517 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 266,148. DOH has designated 236,680 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 171 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 68 and McKinley County with 35. Santa Fe County had 19 cases.

The state also announced 10 additional deaths, five of them recent; there have now been 4,952 fatalities. As of yesterday, 350 people were hospitalized with COVID-19—50 more than the day prior.

Currently, 81.4% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 71.9% are fully vaccinated. Among that demographic, 6.3% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 53.7% people have had at least one dose and 62.2% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 92.3% have had at least one dose and 82% are fully vaccinated.

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

Lawmakers consider retired cops for shortages

State legislators on the Pensions and Investments Oversight Committee yesterday heard a proposal to allow retired police to return to work. The plan, as sketched by retired police officer, state Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, would allow retired police to continue to receive pension benefits, or delay them for a larger payout in the future. The plan addresses the simultaneous shortage of police and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s call to deploy 1,000 more public safety officers across the state. Currently, state law prohibits so-called “double dipping” for public employees, in which they both receive a salary and retirement payouts at the same time. This is not the first time such a bill has been proposed; comparable legislation in 2016 had some support but eventually died. Former Gov. Susana Martinez in 2018 also expressed support for bills that would allow police to return to work while receiving pension pay, and the Santa Fe City Council passed a resolution in support of doing so as well. In yesterday’s legislative committee meeting, lawmakers also heard proposals on increasing retirement plans for members of the state judiciary, with a presentation noting that judges’ low salaries and retirement plans are frequently cited by lawyers as a reason they don’t want to apply for judicial vacancies.

PED: AP scores rising in STEM subjects

The state Public Education Department reports that New Mexico high school students this year gained more than 10 points on average in Advanced Placement tests for computer science, and achieved a 72% pass rate for in-depth calculus. Moreover, scores increased for 15 AP tests, including eight in the science/technology/engineering and math areas. The gains come even as the number of students participating in AP testing dropped as a result of the pandemic. “We are encouraged to see across-the-board improvement in these important STEM courses,” Public Education Secretary-Designate Kurt Steinhaus said in a statement. “We’re also pleased to see more girls and more bilingual learners taking AP tests in STEM subjects. Now our goal is to get more students into AP courses whether at their own schools or online.” According to a news release, 7,959 students in grades 8 through 12 took a total of 12,708 exams this year, a 14% decrease from 2020 and a 25.6% decrease from 2017. Of the 12,708 exams taken by New Mexico students last spring, 35.5% resulted in grades of 3 (qualified), 4 (well qualified) or 5 (extremely well qualified), also a decrease from last year. “Clearly, remote learning and other disruptions last year affected students taking AP courses and exams just as they affected other students,” Steinhaus said. “We expect a quick return to higher and higher pass rates as we return to a new normal this year.”

Early voters trickle to polls

Thus far, voters in the Nov. 2 election seem to be either waiting for election day or planning to vote absentee. Just 850 voters cast ballots at the Santa Fe County Clerk’s office between Oct. 5 to Oct. 15, and traffic didn’t pick up much when early voting locations expanded to eight spots around the county (including the clerk’s office) last Saturday. Early voting continues through Oct. 30; the county also has six different drop box sites that can be used through Nov. 2. While early voting may be off to a slow start, requests for absentee ballots are outpacing expectations, with 2,607 so far versus the 1,700 that had been projected—which is 4% of the voters eligible to vote in the city election (if you want to vote absentee, County Clerk Katharine Clark says to request a ballot by Oct. 26 and plan to drop it off in person to ensure it’s counted; the Secretary of State’s Office will apparently accept those requests until Oct. 28). Given the high demand for absentee ballots, Clark said her office is now offering an absentee ballot tracking service via SMS on its website (comparable to the Secretary of State’s absentee ballot tracker). That initiative, coupled with the drop boxes, was intended to build trust in the voting process, she said. “There’s a drop box that goes directly into the clerk’s office so at 2 in the morning, drop your ballot off if you want to and that’s under 24-hour surveillance.”

Meanwhile, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports that District 4 City Council candidate Rebecca Romero plead guilty to multiple felony counts of embezzlement, forgery and credit card fraud in 2006, and wasn’t even eligible to vote until she finished her probation in 2014. Romero faces off with Amanda Chavez for the seat, currently occupied by mayoral candidate JoAnne Vigil Coppler. A spokesman for Romero’s campaign, James Hallinan, reportedly initially accused Mayor Alan Webber’s campaign of unearthing the charges to help Chavez (allegations Webber’s campaign denied), but later in the day said he was no longer serving as Romero’s spokesman.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the previous brief misidentified James Hallinan’s role in Romero’s campaign. We’ve also updated the early voting numbers following a clarification from the Santa Fe County clerk. SFR regrets the errors.

Listen up

In his essay “Economics in Nouns and Verbs,” W. Brian Arthur, external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute, IBM faculty fellow and visiting researcher in the Intelligent Systems Lab at PARC, considers the limitations algebra and calculus place on our understanding of economics by their sole reliance on nouns. In a two-part episode of SFI’s Complexity podcast, host Michael Garfield discusses the paper with Arthur, which Garfield introduces with the following premise: “Can you write a novel using only nouns? Well, maybe, but it won’t be very good nor easy, nor will it tell a story. Verbs link events…So why in telling stories of our economic lives, have people settled into using algebraic theory, ill-suited to the task of capturing the fundamentally uncertain, open and evolving processes of innovation and exchange?” Needless to say, the answers to these questions are not simple, but fascinating.

Indigenous artists on climate

The New York Times includes the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts exhibition “Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology” (through July 10, 2022) in a story examining climate exhibitions that “look beyond declarations of calamity.” The exhibit, which includes a forthcoming hardcover, fully illustrated catalog, explores the long-term effects of man-made disasters on Indigenous communities in the US and around the world, with work by Indigenous artists from the US, Australia, Canada, Greenland, Japan and the Pacific Islands. As the Times writes, the show “presents responses from Native artists to nuclear exposure as a result of uranium mining, nuclear tests and accidents on or near their sacred land—as well as the erosion of containers for nuclear-waste deposits caused by global warming.” The Times makes specific note of the video-recorded production “Arkhticós Doloros,” in which Inuit artist Jessie Kleemann performs a ritual near a pool of glacial melt in Greenland, where “the rapidly melting ice cap is uncovering dangerous uranium deposits that threaten the Inuit people…Wearing little more than a dress in brutal conditions of cold and wind, Kleemann offers an emotional response to the anguished climate that is painful to watch,” but also “suggests, perhaps, something of the endurance required to live in harsh climates and the will needed to stave off the very worst climate change outcomes that are still in humans’ power to prevent.”

Poetic justice

Santa Fe has new billboards, but they promote justice not commerce. The Poetic Justice Billboard Project has launched, a collaboration between SITE Santa Fe, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and poets Hakim Bellamy, Levi Romero and Edie Tsong. You can read and listen to the poems here. The billboard project coincides with an exhibition at the New Mexico Museum of Art of the same title, Poetic Justice, featuring the work of Judith F. Baca, Mildred Howard and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Bellamy, Romero and Tsong were invited to create new works in conjunction with the show and, from those works, created a “poetic triptych” using selected verses from their newly commissioned poems.You can view the billboards at SITE through March 31, 2022 and the exhibition at the Museum of Art through June 19, 2022. In the exhibition, Baca, Howard and Quick-to-See Smith employ painting, installation, film and monument making to draw “attention to less familiar perspectives surrounding community issues such as land use, the environment, housing, civil rights, police brutality, and immigration policy.”

Which way the wind blows

Today’s forecast from the National Weather Service predicts a sunny day with a high near 63 degrees and north wind around 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Yesterday’s forecast similarly ordained sunny skies and seemed, rather, pretty cloudy, but time will tell. Speaking of time, winter may be two months away, but fire managers are preparing for what’s expected to be a dry season with a series of prescribed burns.Thanks for reading! The Word can’t wait to read The Every, Dave Eggers’ sequel to The Circle (and btw only independent bookstores can carry the hardback version) and also just read an excerpt to tide her over until she can leave her house to go to the bookstore.

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