Morning Word

NM Congressional Delegation Proposes Bill To Compensate Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Victims

US Interior Department releases devastating first report on federal Indian boarding school history

NM congressional delegation proposes bill for fire victims

New Mexico’s Democratic congressional members yesterday introduced legislation aimed at compensating victims of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. In a phone interview from Washington, DC., US Sen. Ben Ray Luján told SFR the bill is modeled on a bill crafted by the late US Sen. Pete Domenici to compensate victims of the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire. Both fires grew from prescribed burns. “We changed it so that it fits for the moment,” Luján said. If adopted, the Hermit’s Peak Fire Assistance Act would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to design and administer a program for fully compensating those who suffered personal injury, property losses, business and financial losses resulting from the fire that began near Hermit’s Peak. “In my opinion, there’s liability by the federal government here,” Luján said, “and that’s why there should be additional support.”

As of this morning, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire had grown to 259,810 acres, with 33% containment and more than 1,800 personnel on the fire. Mandatory evacuations have now been issued to communities in four counties. Fire officials last night reported another hot, dry windy day on the fire, with cooler temps expected today but another red flag day and low humidity. Winds are expected to lessen starting Friday and over the weekend. The Cerro Pelado Fire in the Jemez as of last reporting is at 43,376 acres and 11% containment.

Interior Department releases first boarding school report

New Mexico had the third highest number of federal Indian boarding schools—43—according to a report released yesterday by the US Interior Department. The report, the first released as part of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, states that between 1819 and 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools across 37 states or then territories. The investigation identified marked or unmarked burial sites at approximately 53 different schools across the school system. Among other horrendous findings, the report notes federal Indian boarding school rules “were often enforced through punishment, including corporal punishment such as solitary confinement; flogging; withholding food; whipping; slapping; and cuffing.” In a statement, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the “consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old—are heartbreaking and undeniable. We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous peoples can continue to grow and heal.”

Rust film company appeals state fine, citation

Rust Movie Productions, earlier this week, filed an appeal with the state Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Revision Commission in response to OSHA’s citation and fine against the company last month. OSHA issued its highest citation against the company for ignoring safety hazards on the Rust film set, which carries a $136,793 fine and came more than six months after the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding of director Joel Souza. Actor Alec Baldwin, also a producer on the film, was holding the weapon when it fired, though he has denied culpability and no criminal charges have been filed. In the appeal, the movie company says it disputes the environment department’s citation and the summary of its investigation because its bases are “factually and legally inaccurate.” As examples, the appeal says a fire extinguisher the state cited for not being inspected was not a real fire extinguisher, but a prop; disputes the company’s role as an “employer,” and says it was not “responsible for supervising the film set, much less for supervising specific protocols such as the maintenance and loading of weapons”; and denies that it “willfully” violated safety protocols (among other points).

Santa Fe City manager to meet with State Auditor over finances

In recent weeks, the City of Santa Fe has lost its auditor and its finance director and been publicly castigated by State Auditor Brian Colón for its fourth late audit in as many years. The 2021 audit remains outstanding, and Colón has requested a meeting with city officials, City Manager John Blair told city councilors last night as the governing body returned to in-person meetings. Blair said he hopes the meeting will help him get “some guidance about best practices around our audits and our finance management…” In the meantime, Interim Assistant Finance Director Ricky Bejarano says the city has been working with an Albuquerque-based accounting firm to reconcile its accounts. “We started with a $4.6 million difference; we’re at a $1.4 million difference,” Bejarano said. As for replacing Finance Director Mary McCoy, who left after the city’s auditing firm departed, Blair said new Deputy City Manager Layla Archuleta-Maestas’s first task will be creating a plan to replace McCoy.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported May 11:

New cases: 354; 525, 249 total cases

Case rate: According to the weekly geographic trends report from the state health department, Santa Fe County has a case rate per 100,000 for the seven-day period of May 2-8 at 21.2, the third highest in the state, following De Baca (38.8) and Los Alamos (29.5)Deaths: 13; At last count, Santa Fe County has had 282 total deaths; there have been 7,594 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 44; Patients on ventilators: eight

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.

Listen up

The sixth and latest episode of Inside SFPS, Santa Fe Public Schools podcast, “Do What You Love, The Rest Will Follow,” features Lisa Randall, the district’s sustainability program coordinator. A Maine native, Randall talks with host Cody Dynarski, SFPS public information officer, about her upbringing and how it influenced her views of sustainability and work; her time in Central America helping to build houses and “support the revolution;” her travels around the US; and how she came to live in Santa Fe.

Meow Wolf previews Texas portals

Meow Wolf announced two new portals slated for neighboring Texas coming in 2023 and 2024 to Grapevine—part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex—and Houston, respectively. According to a news release, a brand new permanent Meow Wolf installation “will reclaim the space of a former big box retail store” at the Grapevine Mills mall “to create our own take on reality.” The location was chosen, the news release says, because Meow Wolf loves malls. Moreover, Vice President of Marketing Didi Bethurum tells SFR, “Meow Wolf has always been about making art accessible to as many people as possible. And our history has many artistic offerings. We definitely looked at areas like the Arts District in Dallas, but also thought that in going to Grapevine Mills, it was a great opportunity to connect with a whole new audience.” The company fifth site, in Houston, will be located in the city’s fifth ward. “The Meow Wolf story universe is expanding, and Texas holds the keys to our next chapters,” Meow Wolf CEO Jose Tolosa said in a statement. “Opening a permanent exhibition in the largest and one of the most diverse states in the country has been on Meow Wolf’s radar for years, and we are excited to be formally underway. The opportunities this state has presented have already become the touchstones of a vibrant, arts-centric portal of imaginative creativity.” The company says it plans to work with local and emerging artists in the region and will begin actively recruiting artists and staff this summer.

SFCC launches Javier Gonzales memorial scholarship

The Santa Fe Community College Foundation yesterday announced a new scholarship named in memory of former Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales. The Javier Gonzales Memorial Presidential Title V Endowed Scholarship, according to a news release, “will commemorate Javier Gonzales through scholarships for students who need additional funding to pursue higher education.” Gonzales, who served as mayor from 2014 to 2018, died last February from cancer at the age of 55. The memorial scholarship currently has $50,000 in contributions from Century Bank, Triad/Los Alamos National Laboratory, Human Rights Alliance, Meow Wolf, PNM Resources and SFCCF. “This scholarship will carry on and honor Javier Gonzales for generations,” SFCC Foundation Board of Directors President Jeffery Szabat said in a statement. “It’s a wonderful example of how private and public collaboration can help students and honor community leaders like Javier Gonzales.” In a statement, Gonzales’ brother, Estevan, said the scholarship reflects his late brother’s values: “Javier believed in helping the underserved and underprivileged,” Gonzales said. “He believed in the importance of education. It’s great to see the community college honoring him through this scholarship.” Contributions can be made here.

Sundance Institute returns to Santa Fe

After two years of virtual programming, Utah’s Sundance Institute will be returning to Santa Fe for its annual Native Filmmakers Lab. “We’re excited to be back in Santa Fe and on pueblo lands,” the Institute’s Indigenous program director, Adam Piron (Kiowa/Mohawk), tells SFR. “Given the city’s history and place within Native art, it’s always been important to host our lab and fellows here to not only extend the inspiration that comes from this place, but also to reinforce the value of their work as Indigenous artists.” Sundance founded the Native Filmmakers Lab in 2004 through which it matches Native filmmakers with industry experts for a series of writing, directing and technical workshops. Of the eight filmmakers chosen for this year’s cohort, five are already relatively established and three are part of the program’s Full Circle Fellowship for younger creatives between 18 and 24 years old. “My team and I are beyond thrilled to be supporting this latest cohort of artists for our lab,” Adam Piron, director of the Institute’s Indigenous Program, said in a statement. “We come from storytelling cultures millennia older than film and television themselves, and this year’s selection is a vibrant testament to our artists celebrating and expanding those traditions across genre, artistic approaches, and formats.”

Under the weather

Today will be partly sunny and then mostly sunny with a high near 71 degrees, west wind 10 to 15 mph increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph, according to the National Weather Service, which also forecasts possible areas of smoke before 9 pm, and has issued a red flag warning for today along with an air quality alert.

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