Morning Word

NM Legislature Launches Redistricting Session

PNM, Avangrid request chance to address PRC

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 3,794 new COVID-19 cases for the three-day period of Dec. 4-6, bringing the total number of cases to 324,311; DOH has designated 273,577 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 1,326 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 602 and Valencia County with 222. Santa Fe County had 177.

DOH also announced 12 additional deaths, 10 of them recent; there have now been 5,419 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 632 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 43 fewer than Friday.

Currently, 86.5% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.8% are fully vaccinated. Among that demographic, 25.8% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 65% of people have had at least one dose and 55.9% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 19.3% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 4.8% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 98.1% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 84.7% 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.

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

And they’re off

The state Legislature convened yesterday for a special session focused on redistricting the state’s Congressional, state Senate, state House and Public Education Commission. Recommendations for the maps come from a Citizen Redistricting Committee, which spent several months holding dozens of public meetings and parsing in the vicinity of 800 comments. Maps for the state House (HB3, HB4, HB5 & HB8) and Public Education Commission (HB6, HB7 & HB9) will begin in the House, going through the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee and House Judiciary Committee, before moving to the Senate. Meanwhile, maps for the State Senate and New Mexico’s Congressional districts will begin in the Senate, and then proceed to the House. The fourth House map (HB8) represents the CRC map incorporating a tribal consensus reached after the CRC completed its work. “House Democrats are committed to adopting maps that reflect the cultural diversity of our great state and the demographic and geographic changes we’ve seen over the last 10 years,” House Majority Floor Leader Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, said in a statement. “Nothing is more important than safeguarding our democracy and making sure that every New Mexican has their voice heard and vote protected.”

That being said, opening day was not without controversy. Sen. Mark Moores, R- Albuquerque, took aim at Congressional Concept H, designed by the Center for Civic Policy on behalf of a coalition of community groups, alleging the center paid people to testify on its behalf. Concept H has thus far garnered the most debate, as it would break up the 2nd Congressional District in such a way as to potentially lessen its conservative stronghold. In other controversies, Sen. Jacob Candelaria announced he was switching his party affiliation from Democrat to Independent, and also criticized one of the state Senate map proposals. The session also will include allocation of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (which also spurred disagreements yesterday). The Roundhouse is open to the public with proof of COVID-19 vaccination; the public can also view floor sessions and committee meetings on the New Legislature’s Webcasts tab, and provide comment via phone or Zoom as directed on the daily schedule.

PNM, Avangrid, request chance to address PRC

PNM and Avangrid want to address Public Regulation Commissioners orally on Wednesday when the PRC takes up the companies’ proposed merger again. According to a news release from PNM, the two companies, along with other groups supporting the merger, filed a request Friday for the opportunity to address concerns raised last week by several commissioners. “This case is important for New Mexico,” Pat Vincent-Collawn, chairman, president and CEO of PNM’s parent company, said in a statement. “It directly impacts electricity service for over half a million customers. We respect our public regulation process and believe that if the parties have an opportunity to answer the Commissioners’ questions directly, we will be able to address any remaining issues head on and continue to provide the full transparency that this process requires. The Commissioners face a critical decision that will impact New Mexico for decades.” Last month, Public Regulation Commissioner Hearing Examiner Ashley Schannauer recommended the PRC reject the merger. The PNM news release says the parties supporting the merger were limited to 20 pages to respond to that 400-page report. “PNM and AVANGRID believe that it’s critical for the full record to be reviewed and clarified as the Commission prepares to vote on the merger,” the news release says. “Hearing oral argument from a range of parties brings additional transparency to this critical regulatory process, with its ramifications for New Mexico as a whole. This request provides the commissioners a chance to directly question the various parties involved so the commission’s final decision considers all perspectives.”

Twelve unions sign contracts for LANL work

Los Alamos National Laboratory announced yesterday 12 labor unions signed their collective bargaining agreements on Dec. 2, completing their negotiations with Triad National Security, which operates LANL. According to a news release, the contracts represent approximately 1,200 essential workers in the skilled building trades including electricians, pipe-fitters, mechanics, sheet metal workers, operators, iron workers, painters, carpenters, roofers, laborers, teamsters, insulators and masons. “Negotiations are always tough,” Joey Atencio, vice president of the New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council and chairman of the master agreement negotiations team, said in a statement. “I am encouraged that we were able to improve the livelihoods of every craft professional on the hill.” Negotiations began last summer and the new contracts go into effect in July 2022 and will be effective through June 2027; collective bargaining negotiations take place every five years. “The skilled building trades represent approximately 10 percent of the Laboratory workforce,” LANL Director Thom Mason, said in a statement. “As the Lab expands its mission and invests in its facilities, these tradespeople are more essential than ever. I am grateful we have reached an agreement that benefits these employees, the New Mexico economy and our country’s national security.”

Listen up

Animal-loving Santa Fe has a new source for information and entertainment: Pet Chat, a new radio show hosted by Murad Kirdar, public information officer from the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, and Bobbi Heller, executive director of Felines & Friends New Mexico. Needless to say, both are very qualified to discuss all the must-know basics of pet care, and will also have weekly guests who are specialists on the topics of behavior, nutrition and medical care, among other issues. The show airs at 9 am on Saturdays on Talk 1260 KTRC, 103.7 FM, or catch the podcast on

Quick-to-See Smith talks life, art, style

The New York Times style magazine T profiles Native American artist Jaune Quick-to See-Smith, a New Mexico resident, whose work is showcased in the current Mexico Museum of Art exhibition Poetic Justice (through June 19, 2022). Quick-to-See Smith, now 81, says she was discouraged from applying to the University of New Mexico’s Master of Fine Arts program, although she spent four years there taking classes regardless. “In the art department, they said, ‘Indians go to art ed, you can’t go to fine arts,’ " she said. “Because Indians do crafts.” While there, she met other Native artists such as Emmi Whitehorse and Ed Singer, and formed the Grey Canyon Artists collective. She left UNM with an MA in visual arts; today, the Whitney Museum of American Art has three of her abstract pastel, charcoal and graphite pencil on paper pieces from that era in its permanent collection. Her work, T writes, employs a “distinct visual language, one infused with a Pop Art sensibility that often situates the symbols of American empire and Native life alongside one another to striking effect.” In addition to her placement in the New Mexico Museum of Art exhibition, Quick-to-See Smith’s new work, “Indigenizing the Colonized US Map,” 12 large-scale mixed-media paintings, comprise most of “Woman in Landscape,” her show currently on view at the Garth Greenan Gallery in New York. Quick-to-See Smith also takes part in T’s Artist Questionnaire, describing her New Mexico studio thusly: “One wall is covered with supplies, which I’ve collected over the years because [the artist] Fritz Scholder told me one time, ‘Don’t ever run out of paint and don’t ever run out of canvases.’”

Chop, chop

A salad named for New Mexico’s state capital lies at the center of a Nevada lawsuit involving the Las Vegas-based Chop Stop, a neighboring Cafe Rio and their landlord, Los Angeles-based Dynamic Real Estate Partners. LA Times columnist Gustavo Arellano writes about the suit this week, in which Cafe Rio alleges Chop Shop’s Viva Mexico and Santa Fe salads are Mexican food, “which violates Cafe Rio’s lease that doesn’t allow any other restaurant in the shopping plaza that the two share to gross more than 10% of its sales from ‘Mexican or Tex-Mex food.’” Chop Shop, Arellano writes, contends it “merely sells generic chopped salads that cannot be characterized as either ‘Mexican’ or ‘Tex-Mex.’” As for the landlord? “Do I know whether Santa Fe chop salads are Tex-Mex?” Jeff Adelman, Dynamic’s Las Vegas’ in-house counsel, asks rhetorically. “I don’t know, and I don’t know who knows.” Dynamic, thus, is asking the court to weigh in on the matter. Meanwhile, Arellano, a Mexican food aficionado, begins his column by visiting a Chop Shop in LA and finding nothing Mexican about its Viva Mexico salad and writes that the Santa Fe salad sole “evocation of New Mexico’s capital” is its corn kernels. Finally, Chop Stop has filed its own lawsuit against the landlord “for not siding with it in the dispute against Cafe Rio.” And—though we are neither food nor legal experts—Chop Shop appears to have a decent argument against Cafe Rio’s claims, at least as it relates to the Santa Fe salad: “Santa Fe is a town in New Mexico, not Mexico or Texas,” Chop Stop’s lawsuit says.

Winter is coming

Today will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 51 degrees and west wind 10 to 15 mph. But just you wait: The National Weather Service forecasts the start of something like winter weather starting Thursday night, with rain/snow/colder temperatures potentially carrying us into the weekend. Winter, by the way, officially starts two weeks from today.

Thanks for reading! The Word kinda has the holiday spirit, particularly after viewing this ad from Norway’s Postal Service, “When Harry Met Santa,” marking 50 years since homosexuality was de-criminalized in that country.

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