Morning Word

Mayor Alan Webber Wins a Second Term

District 3 voters unseat City Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 675 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 278,509; the health department has designated 245,516 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 175 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 83 and San Juan County with 76. Santa Fe County had 27.

The state also announced 12 additional deaths, eight of them recent; there have now been 5,073 fatalities. As of yesterday, 382 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 14 more than the day prior.

Currently, 82.5% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 72.6% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 11% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 62.6% people have had at least one dose and 54.4% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, 93.3% people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 82.5% are fully vaccinated.

New Mexicans can register for a COVID-19 vaccine here and check eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine booster here.

Yesterday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. New Mexico’s Medical Advisory Team will now review and approve that recommendation in anticipation of a roll-out here for that age group.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase, Deputy DOH Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón and Education Secretary Designate Kurt Steinhaus will host a COVID-19 news update at 2 pm today, which will stream on the health department’s Facebook page and with a Spanish language interpreter on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s YouTube page.

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

Santa Fe re-elects Mayor Alan Webber

Mayor Alan Webber earned a second term in yesterday’s three-way race with City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Alexis Martinez Johnson and avoided an instant run-off election by capturing nearly 55% of the vote off the bat, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office. “Elections are always about the future and Santa Fe’s future is bright and full of promise,” Webber said during a victory speech at Hotel Santa Fe. “We’ve heard on the doorsteps of our residents and phone calls...what our residents want: affordable housing and a sustainable environment; jobs and economic opportunity for our workers and their families; parks and recreation for our neighborhoods.” Vigil Coppler, who will vacate her District 4 City Council seat come next year, had not conceded the race by last night, telling SFR “it’s not over until it’s over,” pending final results. Those unofficial results, as of 11 pm last night, show Vigil Coppler with 35% of the vote and Martinez Johnson with 10%. Approximately 18,000 people voted in yesterday’s city election, a 30% turnout, a decrease from the 2018 mayoral race, when about 38% of city voters cast ballots, but higher than yesterday’s statewide voter turnout of approximately 19%. Nonetheless, SFR encountered busy polling places throughout the day and an electorate with strong, albeit mixed feelings about the mayor’s race, ranked choice voting and the state of the city. At the end of the day, voters such as Local Flavor Publisher Patty Karlovitz decided Webber was best positioned to address them. “As many mistakes as he has made, and he has made a lot, he still has, I think, the clearest, most logical way of looking at things,” she said.

District 3 voters unseat Abeyta

In yesterday’s largest local upset, District 3 voters appear to have chosen challenger Lee Garcia over incumbent City Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta. According to unofficial returns, Garcia captured 53% of the vote, versus 47% from Abeyta. Early in the day, Abeyta told SFR his campaign “didn’t leave any stone unturned. We did everything we possibly could.” In the end, it appeared not to be sufficient to earn Abeyta, chief professional office for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Fe/ Del Norte, a second term. Garcia, who owns several tire stores, told SFR last night he remained on the edge of his seat: “It’s looking promising,” he says. “My initial reaction is just about showing everyone that anybody can run. There is public campaign financing out there. We need more people to take up the challenge and I think that sets a great example.” The contest to replace outgoing City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, who appears to have lost her bid for mayor yesterday, garnered more decisive results. Educator Amanda Chavez captured 75% of the vote for District 4 in her race against Rebecca Romero, whose campaign faltered after news reports revealed she had previously pled guilty to multiple felony counts of embezzlement, forgery and fraud. In District 1, where three candidates hoped to unseat incumbent Sig Lindell’s bid for a third term, none came close and, again, ranked choice voting proved unnecessary. Lindell won 61% of the vote, followed by Brian Gutierrez with 20%, Joe Hoback with 13% and Roger Carson with 6%. As for two school bonds—a general obligation bond to cover remodeling and construction costs and a mill levy that pays for upkeep and maintenance in school buildings—voters overwhelmingly supported the measures, with 79% and 73% in favor, respectively.

Help for the Gila

Yesterday, US Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, introduced legislation to designate portions of the Gila River, its watershed and other rivers in the Gila National Forest as Wild and Scenic Rivers. According to a fact sheet from Heinrich’s office, the MH Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act will: protect the traditional river values and uses while also permanently protecting the free-flowing nature of these river segments; permanently protect the recreational values found along many of the river segments, such as hunting, fishing and hiking; and will allow current uses such as grazing and irrigating to continue, among other features. “Some of the clearest and most visible signs of the climate crisis in New Mexico and across the West are evident in the rapidly diminishing flows on the Colorado River and its shrinking reservoirs. In the face of this, our effort to protect one of the few remaining wild and natural stretches of water in the greater Colorado River watershed could not be more urgent,” Heinrich said in a statement. Heinrich originally introduced the legislation with former US Sen. Tom Udall in 2020, and it has a wide range of support from both elected officials, local residents and others.

Listen up

On the most recent episode of the Growing Forward podcast, hosts Andy Lyman and Megan Kamerick dig into the prospect of cannabis consumption areas, aka places where people can gather and use cannabis. Such cannabis lounges almost got underway strictly for medical cannabis patients, following 2019 changes to the law, but those stalled out as 2020 began and the COVID-19 pandemic halted public gatherings, according to Dominick V. Zurlo, program director for the state’s medical cannabis program. Zurlo says he sees several benefits to having such areas for medical cannabis patients, not least which of is to “foster community between patients.” Now, with consumption areas allowed for all cannabis users under the new Cannabis Regulation Act, specific rules governing them have yet to be established. One rule consecrated in the law, however, prohibits establishments from serving both alcohol and cannabis products. John Blair, deputy superintendent for the state Regulation & Licensing Department, which oversees the new Cannabis Control Division, says the department has heard from “from people who would like to do both,” but the law is clear. As for the law’s reasoning: “Anecdotally I will tell you, I’m not a scientist...but there are compounding effects if people are consuming both alcohol and cannabis.”

Get your goat

Forest managers and scientists foresee prescribed burns as an integral component for long-term forest health. Some New Mexico pueblos are incorporating another tool into efforts to mitigate the risks of wildfire: goats. High Country News spent time on Sandia Pueblo, where rancher Max Wade’s goats—more than 70 Boer and Spanish ones—”eagerly licked and chewed the bark and branches of knee-high invasive plants like young Siberian, or dwarf, elms and bright green tamarisk, or saltcedar.” Since the tribe invited the goats last June to chew through fuel on the forest floor, they’ve eaten their way through 40 acres of brush. “This is a real solution,” forest specialist Michael “Scial” Scialdone tells HCN. “It’s fuel reduction. They are eating the vegetation, dispersing it, turning the soil up and getting new nutrients into the soil.” The goats also are helping the soil by walking around it, not to mention receiving moisture and nutrients themselves. Several other tribes have tracked the project’s progress and plan to follow suit. Pueblos historically incorporated farm animals into their agricultural practices, Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano says; this project marks a return to a more natural way of managing the forest. “They’ve done a pretty, pretty amazing job. It’s been very successful,” he said. “I think it’s a program that we’ll continue to utilize.”

At the outside

The state’s Outdoor Recreation Division on Monday announced more than $500,000 in grants to 25 entities for so-called “shovel-ready” outdoor infrastructure projects. While the department says this year’s awards represent a 316% increase from 2020—when six organizations were funded with just over $77,000—it was still only able to fund 42% of the total ask from 60 different organizations. In Santa Fe, Commonweal Conservancy received $15,000 to improve and expand at the three trailheads at the Galisteo Basin Preserve. Rio Grande Return received $25,000 to restore “the ecological integrity” of a half-mile stretch of the Santa Fe River Park and Trail by replanting native cottonwood and various willow species. According to a news release, 64% of this year’s awarded projects are located in rural counties. Other funded projects include one to restore 25 miles of neglected recreation trails in the Gila National Forest; increase access to the outdoor experiential conservation and wildlife education programs at the New Mexico Wildlife Center in Española; and improve trail appearance, access, connectivity, safety and visibility of the 60-mile Zuni trail system on Zuni Pueblo. “The response this year to the Outdoor Recreation Trails+ grant was overwhelming positive,” ORD Director Axie Navas said in a statement. “We’re proud to support these 25 amazing organizations all over the state who are developing trails, encouraging stewardships, building boat ramps, improving outdoor classrooms, and so much more with the goal of increasing sustainable access to the state’s landscapes.”

Warm up

Today looks a teensy bit warmer than yesterday, according to the National Weather Service: Sunny, with a high near 60 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming south in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! Yesterday, The Word went on a short walk and listened to this NYT story about the rise of sharks hunting on Cape Cod and was so rapt that she forgot about everything else in the world for well over an hour.

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