Morning Word

Santa Fe City Council Scheduled to Vote on New City Manager

Alec Baldwin denies claims he’s not cooperating with “Rust” investigation

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico hit record high numbers for new COVID-19 cases on Friday: 4,246, a reflection of the state’s surge from the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Bernalillo County had 1,287 cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 711 and Santa Fe County with 393 (131 of which were in the 87507 ZIP code, which ranked fourth in the state for ZIP codes with the most new cases). There have now been 369,113 total cases; DOH has designated 315,606 of them as recovered.

According to the state’s most recent vaccination case report from Jan. 3, over the last four weeks, 66.4% of COVID-19 cases have been among those who are not vaccinated, as have 83.6% of hospitalizations and 88.1% of deaths.

The state reported 14 additional deaths, including a female in her 80s from Santa Fe County who had been hospitalized. Additionally, DOH issued a corrected fatality report from Jan. 4, which added three more Santa Fe County deaths: three males, in their 70s, 80s and 90s, respectively, and all with underlying conditions; the men in their 70s and 80s had been hospitalized. There have now been 213 deaths in Santa Fe County and 5,983 total fatalities statewide.

As of Friday, 539 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. The state is expected to provide a three-day update on cases, hospitalizations and fatalities this afternoon.

Also on Friday, DOH renewed the current public health order, which includes the indoor mask mandate, as well as emergency orders requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for some workers.

Currently, 89.2% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 76% have had two. Among that demographic, 36.6% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 67.1% of people have had at least one dose and 57.5% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 29.5% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 18.5% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 99% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 85.7% have completed their primary series.

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 the updated guidelines for quarantine and isolation here.

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

Council considers new city manager, govt structure

Come Wednesday, the Santa Fe City Council is scheduled to decide whether to approve John Blair as the new city manager. Blair previously worked as deputy superintendent for the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department, and also had stints as New Mexico’s deputy secretary of state and as the legislative and communications director for US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM. Blair’s appointment follows the departure of Jarel Lapan Hill, slated to end her approximate two years on the job the same day, with about a $35,000 payout for unused vacation time. Blair’s appointment also would come in advance of the city once again evaluating its system of governance. When first elected four years ago, Mayor Alan Webber became the city’s first so-called “strong” mayor, with a higher salary and more power, following approval of a plan created by the last Charter Commission nearly a decade ago. The commission is supposed to review once a decade and, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, will likely be reappointed later this year. In the meantime, officials are looking at what works with the current system and which, if any, changes should be considered. “We are at the beginning of this,” City Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth, who served on the charter review commission, tells the New Mexican. “This is the start of that conversation, but there will be more conversations about whether it is working and what structure would make it better.”

Gov proposes nearly 50% increase for enviro funding

In her newly released proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposes a 48.7% increase in state funding for the state environment department. Funding would include: $2.5 million to create a new 15-person Climate Change Bureau tasked with executing various policies in service of helping the state achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The budget also proposes $2.4 million to assure drinking water safety from contaminants like PFAS, and to restore watersheds and wetlands; and $2.3 million for 19 new positions within the Hemp and Cannabis Bureau to help ensure safe food products. “This budget proposal is a huge step forward in our efforts to transition to a carbon net neutral economy, support the safe launch of the recreational cannabis program, protect our limited water supplies against severe drought and ensure that the Land of Enchantment is a safe place to live, work and thrive,” NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. “I look forward to working with our legislators to secure their vote in support of this budget increase. Without the support of state legislators, the Environment Department cannot deliver for their constituents.” An environment department news release highlights the discrepancy between the governor’s proposed budget and that of the Legislative Finance Committee, which proposes a 6.4% increase to NMED’s budget. The Legislature will assemble Jan. 18 for a 30-day session focused largely on finances, as well as any other topics designated by the governor.

Alec Baldwin denies withholding phone from police

In a Jan. 8 Instagram post, Alec Baldwin described any suggestion he’s not cooperating with the investigation into the fatal shooting on the Rust film set as “bullshit.” In mid-December, Santa Fe County Magistrate Judge David Segura issued a search warrant for Baldwin’s cell phone as part of the ongoing investigation into the Oct. 21 incident in which Baldwin fired a weapon on the film set of Rust that contained live ammunition, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. In an affidavit, Santa Fe County Sheriff Detective Alexandria Hancock requested Baldwin’s phone—believed to be an iPhone—along with a “forensic download,” to include pictures, deleted pictures, videos, audio recordings, social media accounts, internet browser histories, contact lists, text messages and more. The affidavit also requests access to any cloud accounts held by Baldwin and its GPS data. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office still does not have possession of the phone.

In his video, Baldwin contends turning over his phone is a “process” requiring New Mexico law authorities to work directly with those in New York, where Baldwin lives. “They can’t just go through your phone and take your photos or your love letters to your wife,” he said, adding, “We are 1,000% going to comply with all that. We’re perfectly fine with that. But as I always say, consider the source.” His source remarks ostensibly refer to a New York Post headline the same day that read, “Why Won’t Alec Help?” that included various lawyers theorizing as to why Baldwin might be holding onto his phone. On Friday, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies issued a statement that her office and the sheriff “are actively working with the Suffolk County, New York Sheriff’s Department and Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers, within jurisdictional constraints, to obtain any materials from Mr. Baldwin’s phone that pertain to the Rust investigation.”

Listen up

ICYMI, Report from Santa Fe host Lorene Mills started the new year with a show featuring journalist Kyle Dickman, a former Outside magazine editor and author of On the Burning Edge: A fateful fire and the men who fought it. Dickman spent five seasons fighting wildfires in California and brings that knowledge to bear in a meticulously reported and researched story of the deadly and massive 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. Dickman talks with Mills both about his book, but also about the increasing size, scope and hazards of wildfire. SFR also takes a look at this issue and potential threats to Santa Fe in the wake of Colorado’s devastating Marshall fire.

Behind Outside

As regular readers of the Morning Word know, we are regular readers of Outside magazine and ardent fans of many of its journalists, past and present. Even if we weren’t, we’d probably still support the editorial staff’s recent decision to unionize (15 of the 17 eligible members have signed onto the effort). In its mission statement, the group says over the years, “Outside staff numbers have dwindled and job responsibilities have multiplied,” while “salaries and benefits have failed to account for those changes. Since last year, editorial teams have shrunk and overall turnover has been more than 35 percent. In the face of continued cuts, compensation stagnation, and management decisions that value profit and corporate expansion over our editorial missions, we believe that the only way to ensure that Outside is an equitable workplace and its editorial integrity is kept intact is by coming together and forming a union.”

Colorado-based Pocket Outdoor Media acquired Outside magazine and several other properties nearly one year ago. Now known as Outside Interactive, the company declined to voluntarily recognize the union, writing in a letter: “We respect an employee’s right to unionize, but we don’t believe unionization is a needed path for our employees and we hope to continue to have an open and constructive dialogue to better understand this disconnect.” The company also writes that editors at the magazine “have received significant increases in compensation and benefits” since the ownership change, and added several new benefits for the editorial team, included a bonus plan; equity; and additional benefits such as vision, paid parental leave, disability insurance and wellness reimbursement. According to Outside Interactive Inc., the company has increased spending on base salaries by 27% and across the board total compensation by 43%. Because the company did not voluntarily recognize the union, the editorial group has filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board and, if successful in a union vote, will become part of the Denver Newspaper Guild. According to Poynter, Outside is the first publication to announce a union drive with the NewsGuild in 2022, which last year reported record-breaking numbers of journalists joining unions.

Taos in the spotlight

Taos’ forthcoming Hotel Willa makes Vogue magazine’s list for 2022′s most anticipated hotel openings. “The interiors, by Los Angeles design studio Electric Bowery, will be adorned with textured terra-cotta-colored plaster walls, rich earth-tone fabrics, and what they describe as a painterly palette,” Vogue notes. According to the hotel’s website, in addition to a restaurant, bar and swimming pool, Hotel Willa, being developed by the Casetta Group, also will feature an “open-field glamping area,” an art gallery in partnership with The Paseo Project and plenty of additional event space. “Imagine lazing beneath terra-cotta tile, surrounded by mauve-colored walls and ink blue fabrics while watching the sun set through textured glass,” the website copy reads. “It’s a journey even when you’ve reached the destination called Taos, with its pastures and plains, expansive as the creative minds rooted here—you’ll find calm in the space between all of these things.” Speaking of Taos, out-of-town readers or out-of-town relatives of readers may be interested in a Taos giveaway that kicks off today and runs through Jan. 16, which includes roundtrip tickets to Taos; two nights at El Monte Sagrado; snowshoeing; an $800 gift card and more. Details for how to enter can be found on the Visit Taos Instagram.

All’s quiet

The National Weather Service predicts “quiet” weather today: sunny, with a high near 47 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word senses it’s going to be a Rainy Cafe kind of day.

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