Morning Word

City of Santa Fe Reports Strong Economic Recovery

NM hires first cannabis division director

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials last reported new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, Nov. 24: 1,409, bringing the total number of cases to 308,091; DOH designated 261,131 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 420 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 230 and Sandoval County with 116. Santa Fe County had 59.

The state also announced 21 new deaths on Wednesday, 18 of them recent; there have now been 5,310 fatalities statewide. As of Wednesday, 648 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. DOH is expected to provide a five-day update this afternoon on cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Currently, 85.2% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.2% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 21% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64.3% of people have had at least one dose and 55.4% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 14.3% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. In Santa Fe County, 96.5% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 84% are fully vaccinated.

New Mexicans can register for a COVID-19 vaccine here, schedule a COVID-19 vaccine booster here and view a public calendar for vaccine availability here. Parents can add dependents to their vaccine profiles here.

The New York Times recently profiled New Mexico pharmacist Uri Bassan, who traveled more than 19,000 miles around the state with a team between December 2020 and May of this year to administer 41,794 vaccines. With the state’s cases on the rise, Bassan has been back at it since October, giving out as many as 700 shots at just one event. “To me, it feels like the beginning all over again,” he told the Times.

Finally, ICYMI, the World Health Organization on Nov. 26 classified a new variant, B.1.1.529—reported by South Africa—as a Variant of Concern and named it Omicron. Thus far, the variant has not been detected in the US.

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

City: Santa Fe’s economic recovery going strong

The financial picture for the City of Santa Fe, based on the first quarter of fiscal year 2022, appears more optimistic than expected, according to a performance review, scheduled to be presented to the city’s Finance Committee at its meeting this evening. Gross receipts taxes, the largest source of the city’s revenue, have exceeded expectations in the first quarter, after falling 12% during the 2020 calendar year. The report notes the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, but says nonetheless a “return to a period of economic contraction” such as experienced last year “is highly unlikely.” Rather, the report notes that “despite the economic headwinds including inflation, supply chain shortages and a realignment of the labor market,” Santa Fe’s economic recovery is “strong and economic growth is poised to be robust for the remainder of the fiscal year,” with “local businesses…moving closer to pre-pandemic capacity.” With GRT expected to exceed what was originally budget, the city finance managers will propose budget adjustments that include increased funding for staffing in a variety of departments, along with recurring and non-recurring funding for services and projects in city parks and the Municipal Recreation Sports Complex. In other finance news, 5 pm tomorrow is the deadline to apply to serve on the city’s Audit Committee. The committee conducts independent reviews of internal and external audits, advises the finance committee, City Council and city manager and makes policy recommendations.

NM Cannabis Division hires first director

New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division has its first director: Kristen Thomson, a former Colorado lobbyist who worked most recently as director of government affairs for cannabis retailer The Green Solution/Columbia Care. Thomson will make $105,000 to head the new division, housed in the state’s Regulation and Licensing Division. She began the position earlier this month, which she describes on her LinkedIn profile as “heading up a team dedicated to creating an equitable and sustainable cannabis regulatory framework for the State of New Mexico.” Adult sales of recreational cannabis are scheduled to begin in April, 2022, with several areas of regulation still under development. The division is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Dec. 1 regarding a rule that would require cannabis establishment licensees—except for some cannabis micro-businesses—to maintain labor peace agreements with labor groups, and would also prohibit labor groups from picketing, work stoppages and boycotts. The division also is currently taking public comments on a variety of licensing requirements, labeling, packaging, marketing and advertising in advance of a Dec. 9 public rule hearing. Thomson’s former colleague at Columbia Care, Adam Goers, tells the Santa Fe New Mexican Thomson’s extensive experience will benefit New Mexico’s transition to adult recreational sales; CCD spokeswoman Heather Brewer says the division is grateful to have someone with her expertise. “Kristen’s experience advancing social equity and environmental sustainability while working with small cannabis producers and large companies will be invaluable as CCD continues its mission to support a thriving cannabis industry in New Mexico,” Brewer said in a written statement. Brewer would not, however, provide additional information regarding how many applicants there had been for the position.

Cloud cover

The Durango, Colorado-based Western Weather Consultants has withdrawn its application for a cloud seeding project in Northern New Mexico. New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission Deputy Director Hannah Riseley-White tells the Taos News the company said the timeline for the project had been pushed back too far; however, Riseley-White said she thought her suggestion that a public hearing might be needed—following broad opposition to the project—may have influenced the company’s decision. The proposed two to two-and-a-half month cloud seeding had been proposed to begin next month along the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from Red River to Santa Fe. While cloud seeding as a technology has been around since the 1940s, the Guardian reports it has taken on renewed popularity of late given climate change and the current extreme drought facing many Western states, including New Mexico (here’s SFR’s 2009 story on the topic). As described by the Guardian, “Cloud seeding involves using aircraft or drones to add small particles of silver iodide, which have a structure similar to ice, to clouds. Water droplets cluster around the particles, modifying the structure of the clouds and increasing the chance of precipitation.” Western Weather Consultants’ now-withdrawn plan appears to have proposed ground-based cloud seeding generators that would have produced plumes of silver iodide crystals (artificial cloud nuclei) at rates between 5 and 28 grams per hour from multiple ground sits that would have been diffused by wind flows. Experts say cloud seeding might help, but won’t solve the drought. “It needs to be part of a broader water plan that involves conserving water efficiently, we can’t just focus on one thing,” University of Colorado researcher Katja Friedrich told the Guardian, adding that it remained to be seen whether cloud seeding will even work in the warmer temperatures delivered by climate change.

Listen up

The television show Reservation Dogs has widely been considered groundbreaking for its Indigenous representation, and has received glowing reviews across the board. In a segment on the most recent episode of New Mexico In Focus, correspondent Laura Paskus talks with the show’s composer, Mato Wayuhi (Oglala Lakota), whom you can read about at greater length in this story from Indian Country Today (and you can listen to the show’s soundtrack here).

Moment of truth

Thrillist continues its New Mexico coverage, this time spotlighting Truth or Consequences, a locale, Thrillist writes, that “sounds like a place where you’d watch a sheriff and an outlaw have a shootout,” but “in reality,” is a “mountain town where mineral springs melt away your muscle tension.” Writer Tiana Attride takes a tour of Armendaris Ranch, where guide Heidi talks about the challenges of living in T or C, such as having her ID questioned (this sort of thing can happen to anyone living anywhere in New Mexico from time to time), and learning the ABCs: “Imagine a bunch of Kindergarteners learning how to spell Truth or Consequences,” she said. The story, “Yes, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico Is a Real Place,” details the history of T or C’s name (short version: The town formerly known as Hot Springs, New Mexico, competed circa 1950 to host Ralph Edwards’ game show Truth or Consequences by agreeing to change its name) and runs down how to spend one’s time there. In addition to recommending soaking spots in T or C (the options are many, but Attride settles on Riverbend Hot Springs as the best), Thrillist also points visitors to Ted Turner’s ranches for a “New Mexican safari,” (mountain lions, bison, coyotes, oh my!); to the town’s smattering of eateries; and to its collection of quirky shops, such as Junkology, Galactic Digs and Dukatt ‘71.

Top dog

Like animal shelters across the US, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society has undergone many changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest change is new leadership. Jack Hagerman, 45, took over this month as chief executive officer, replacing Director Dr. Jennifer Steketee, who recently retired (Hagerman has a different title, but basically the same job). Hagerman comes to Santa Fe from Pasadena Humane, and recently spoke with SFR about how shelters have navigated the pandemic, and what his focus will be in Santa Fe. During lockdowns, shelters asked communities to help out by fostering, and people heard the call. Thus, “the pandemic really kicked into high gear this idea that animals do better in homes,” Hagerman says. He hopes to build on that momentum by creating more community resources as an alternative to animal intake. “There are lot of reasons people have to relinquish their pets,” he says, “but if we could help them with some of the reasons why they do it, then we could bypass admissions all together.” Hagerman also plans to work on recruiting more veterinarians to the shelter’s clinic. And, yes, we spoke with him about his own pets: two older dachshunds, Madeleine and Oliver. “Maddy is going on 18 and Ollie is going on 17 and you wouldn’t know it. Aside from the fact that they just sleep a lot, they look and act like 2-year-old puppies...they’re my babies.”

Warm up

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day with a high near 61 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. It may feel like spring, but Ski Santa Fe opened over the weekend and it looks like folks had fun on the mountain.

Thanks for reading! The Word read both this Slate advice columnist’s response to the husband who was mad his wife wrote a novel on her lunch hour, as well as the entire Twitter thread from people shredding him to pieces…and is now thinking about what she is going to eat for lunch.

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