State Auditor: City of Santa Fe’s finances “broken”
State Auditor Brian Colón yesterday announced his office will be “intervening” in the City of Santa Fe’s finances, following what he describes as “worsening fiscal mismanagement.” According to a news release from Colón, his decision comes on the heels of accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen’s withdrawal from completing the city’s pending 2021 audit due to $4 million to $5 million in cash that remains un-reconcilable. That audit is late, as were the 2020, 2019 and 2018 audits; Colón has sent several letters of concern to the city, most recently in December. “The City’s finances are in distress,” Colón said in a statement yesterday. “After ringing the alarm for more than a year, and speaking directly with Mayor [Alan] Webber, the city continues to demonstrate a reckless disregard for compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.” Colón says has “made every effort to prevent financial risk by offering assistance and recommendations to the city but have been met with little to no results.” Subsequently, his office has “engaged” the state’s Department of Finance and its Local Government Division “to discuss a path forward to fix the city’s broken financial situation. Citizens of Santa Fe have a right to know if the city is acting responsibly with their tax dollars, but that is impossible when the city fails to timely deliver an independent and objective assessment on how those dollars are used,” Colón said. City Communications Director Dave Herndon, in an emailed response to SFR, said the city has “reached out” to CliftonLarsonAllen “to better understand what caused the firm to provide us notice that it is withdrawing from our audit,” and anticipates “official direction” from the state auditor “regarding any and all required or recommended steps to correct any errors or processes. His guidance and any assistance he can bring to the table to help the city is welcome. We recognize the gravity of the situation and take the implications of this development very seriously.”
Fire progress continues as officials brace for storms, wind
Southwest Area Incident Management Team 1 Commander Carl Schwope once again last night reported during an online briefing “tremendous progress” on the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire, which has burned close to 61,000 acres and required evacuation of dozens of surrounding communities. Schwope estimated the fire is approximately 20% contained. That good news comes ahead of expected thunderstorms today leading into a return to red-flag critical fire weather on Thursday and Friday. “All of those things make it a challenging fire environment,” Schwope said. “It’s also what leads to these longer evacuation times, which we’re very cognizant of and we’re doing everything we can to shorten that time.” San Miguel County Sheriff Chris Lopez said officials continue to work on public safety issues—downed power lines, for instance—as they work toward allowing people to return to their homes. He estimated his department is about 70% finished assessing damages and said some notifications began yesterday and would continue today. Lopez also cautioned against people trying to re-enter restricted areas. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Operations Section Chief Jayson Coil said yesterday some residents have been interfering with operations. “It’s not fair for people [who]…are getting into our closed off areas, however they find a way in, and posting stuff on social media,” Lopez said during yesterday’s briefing. “It’s not appropriate and it’s not fair to those that are following the rules and letting us do our jobs.”
The Santa Fe National Forest yesterday issued a closure order related to the Cerro Pelado Fire, burning east of Jemez, where fire managers also reported progress ahead of worsening fire weather. The order prohibits people from entering the restricted area, including all Forest Service lands and trails within an area roughly defined by NM Highway 4 on the west, Valles Caldera National Preserve on the north, Bandelier National Monument on the east, and Zia Pueblo and Santo Domingo Pueblo on the south. That fire, as of yesterday, was just under 5,000 acres and 0% contained. Video of last night’s community meeting for that fire is anticipated to post on the Cerro Pelado Fire Facebook page.
Statewide fund coordinating donations for wildfire victims
The All Together New Mexico Fund is now collecting financial contributions for residents impacted by wildfires. The fund, which the New Mexico Coalition of Community Foundations and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham launched at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has awarded $3 million in grants to food banks, food pantries, and small businesses since then, according to a news release yesterday from the governor’s office. Last week, the coalition’s board voted to approve the use of the fund to support New Mexico communities impacted by the ongoing wildfires, with close to $100,000 of existing money going first to provide emergency shelter for New Mexicans who have been displaced. “It’s no surprise that New Mexicans from around the state have been reaching out asking how to support their neighbors,” the governor said in a statement. “That’s the spirit of our state and our compassion for our communities.” Donations can be made online through the All Together New Mexico website; or via mail to Santa Fe Community Foundation, PO Box 1827, Santa Fe, NM 87504, with “All Together NM Fund” notated on the check.
COVID-19 by the numbers
New cases: 158; 521,583 total cases
Deaths: 11; Santa Fe County has had 273 total deaths; there have been 7,456 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 51; Patients on ventilators: three
Transmission: According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination to determine the state of the virus on a county level—all 33 of New Mexico’s counties currently have “green”—aka low—levels.
Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist and New Mexico resident N. Scott Momaday talks to LitHub Radio for its Thresholds interview series, discussing the key role the Wallace Stegner writing fellowship played in his life; Emily Dickinson’s genius; and the role the landscapes of his childhood—the Navajo reservation, Pueblo of Jemez and two Apache reservations—have played in his life: “They fashioned my writing,” he says. “I learned while I was growing up to appreciate the landscape in such a way that I could write about it accurately and precisely. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that had I not grown up in that landscape and observed the kind of life that was lived there by Native people.”
MIAC glass show draws praise, audiences
The Art Newspaper delves into the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture exhibit “Clearly Indigenous: Native Visions Reimagined in Glass” (through June 16), which features work by 33 Indigenous artists as well as leading glass artist Dale Chihuly. “Native iconography has a history and a tradition and a continuity in design, but contemporary artists, possibly to a much greater extent than earlier Native artists, feel free to use their own creative sense,” co-curator Letitia Chambers, the former chief executive of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, tells the paper. “It is not simply copying patterns of the past, but building their own artistic sensibilities into their pieces and into the objects that they make.” Chambers also discusses the influence of Lloyd Kiva New, who founded Santa Fe’s Institute of American Indian Arts, at which Chihuly taught glass for a semester and set up IAIA’s first hot shop. Glass work is technically demanding and often collaborative, and MIAC’s exhibit has drawn new audiences, the story notes.
OMG artists wanted
Just a few days remain to enter artwork in the 2022 Zozobra competition and potentially see your depiction of Old Man Gloom on a poster or T-shirt come Sept. 2. All submissions are due by 5 pm, Friday, April 29 in the adult and youth poster and T-shirt categories. Submissions should tie in with the Zozobra Decades Project, commemorating the 1990s this year, which a news release describes as “era of plaid shirts and Pokémon” (the contest announcement offers this link for ‘90s colors, images and themes to help spur ideas; we’re adding this one). “Everyone in New Mexico wants to be a part of the Zozobra festivities,” Zozobra Event Chair Ray Sandoval says in a statement. “What better way is there than an art contest for New Mexico artists, the young and the young at heart, to create their vision of Santa Fe’s favorite icon for our official 2022 adult and student posters and T-shirts? We can’t wait to see what happens when Zozobra encounters the talent of New Mexico’s amazing artists.” All entries require this entry form. Send them via email to email@example.com. You can mail them, but late entries won’t be accepted (PO Box 622, Santa Fe, NM 87504); or drop them off at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Fe/Del Norte (6600 Valentine Way).
The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms after 3 pm today on an otherwise mostly sunny day with a high near 78 degrees. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph will become southwest 15 to 25 mph in the afternoon; winds could gust as high as 35 mph.