Morning Word

Audit Firm Might Resume Work with City of Santa Fe Pending 26 Unresolved Items

Fire managers report increased containment on Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire as critical weather returns

Audit firm lists conditions for working with city

CliftonLarsonAllen, the auditing firm that resigned last month from working with the City of Santa Fe, has indicated it might resume work pending the city’s submission of 26 outstanding items. Interim Assistant Finance Director Ricky Bejarano delivered that news, along with an overall update on the audit situation, to city officials at last night’s City Council meeting (right around the 1:23 mark). Bejarano said he, the mayor and other city officials met with both the state auditor and Department of Finance Administration recently “and had a very productive meeting.” Bejarano said the city is working on a plan that will lay out a timeline for completing the items, most likely by July 15; the plan will include “extricating” the finances of the Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency and the Buckman Direct Diversion from the city’s budget. “In my opinion, they never should have been incorporated into the city books to begin with,” he said. Bejarano’s update follows State Auditor Brian Colón’s announcement last month that his office would be “intervening” in the City of Santa Fe’s finances, following CLA’s departure and what Colón described as “worsening fiscal mismanagement.” In addition to problems with the 2021 audit, the city filed its 20202019 and 2018 audits late. Bejarano said the city also would be issuing an RFP at the end of this month in an attempt to file the 2022 audit on time and was working to fill several “significant” vacancies. Neither the mayor nor any city councilors had follow-up questions for Bejarano. “Very clear,” Mayor Alan Webber said. The governing body last night also heard the latest in a long line of proposals for the Midtown campus in which the city would declare the property—and possibly portions of the surrounding area—“blighted” in order to access more funding options for it as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area.

Containment grows on Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire

Fire officials reported a bump in containment for the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire during last night’s community meeting. Due to an ongoing inability to use infrared flights overnight again, the acreage remains at 311,148, but containment has grown to 46%. West Zone Incident Commander Carl Schwope said all three teams across the fire had made “a lot of really good progress over the last few days and of course the containment is starting to show that.” While critical fire weather starts to return today and into the holiday weekend, Schwope said he was “feeling real confident that we are ahead of the curve curve on that.” More than 3,000 personnel are currently working on the fire. “As long as we can access the fire, we’ll continue to do good work,” he said. Fire managers also reported heavy helicopters will be dipping out of portable water tanks near Chacon and south of Angostura and could pose dangers to drivers. The Chacon community, as of yesterday, remained in “go” evacuation status, while Angostura was downgraded to “ready.” As numerous communities begin to repopulate, the Forest Service has released an “After Wildfire” guide for New Mexico.

Dem AG candidates talk gun safety, campaign contributions

ICYMI, Democratic Attorney General candidates for the June 7 primary, State Auditor Brian Colón and Albuquerque District Attorney Raúl Torrez, participated in a highly anticipated debate last night. In the wake of the horrifying Tuesday mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, both candidates said they would use the AG’s office to tighten up gun laws, the Albuquerque Journal reports. “The days of saying our thoughts and prayers are with you are over,” Colón said, while Torrez said he had advocated for universal background checks at the Legislature: “We need to focus on prevention.” Torrez also brought up the race’s hot topic: Colón’s acceptance of $175,000 in campaign contributions from out-of-state law firms, which he described as a “pay to play” situation in which those firms would then expect contracts from the AG’s office. “This kind of pay-to-play scheme has to stop,” Torrez said. “We need to rebuild the consumer protection division inside the office and we need to train real litigators.” Colón said the use of out-of-town firms for major state litigation has been a successful model and accused Torrez of using it as a “cheap shot.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported May 25:

New cases: 935; 532,240 total cases

Deaths: 32 (that’s twice as many as yesterday); According to the health department’s most recent mortality report, as of May 23, 17 people had died from COVID-19 in the prior 14-day period; however, the cumulative figure for May in the same report does not align with that number; SFR has a pending request with DOH about the discrepancy; At last count, Santa Fe County had 294 total deaths; there have been 7,732 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 116. Patients on ventilators: 11Case rates: As SFR reported yesterday, Santa Fe County has the highest COVID-19 case rates in the state. 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—updates today. Its most recent report listed all New Mexico counties as green—representing “low” community levels—except for Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Grant counties, which were yellow.DOH yesterday issued a news release geared at high-risk individuals who test positive for COVID-19, “reminding” them to access treatments. Some of the most common risk factors include: being age 65 and older; obesity; having chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung, kidney disease or diabetes; being on treatment that suppresses your immune system; and pregnancy. “Testing, staying up-to-date on vaccinations, COVID oral treatments and masking are the most powerful tools that we have at our disposal to decrease the impact of COVID-19 in our community, as New Mexicans gear up to celebrate long-awaited weddings, graduations and summer vacations,” Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a statement.

Resources: Vaccine registrationBooster registration Free at-home rapid antigen testsSelf-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

Veteran New Mexico journalists Steve Terrell and Lorene Mills today will introduce the launch of the Ernie Mills Media Integrity Project during a 6:30 pm virtual program (on Facebook and Zoom). Mills (1926-2003) worked as a political broadcast journalist in New Mexico for nearly half a century, and was, retired Santa Fe New Mexican journalist Terrell once wrote, “one of the most loved members of this oft-vilified profession.” Ernie Mills married Lorene Mills in the 1980s and the couple produced a legislative newsletter, three daily radio broadcasts and a weekly television show (Mills now hosts the weekly TV show Report from Santa Fe). In addition to discussing the Ernie Mills Media Integrity Project, Terrell and Mills will “discuss the legacy of Ernie Mills and share stories and selections from his extraordinary archives which give a unique insight into New Mexican history.”

Hot, yet cold

According to TWICE, which reports on the “B2B needs of those in the technology and consumer electronics industries,” Samsung has “raised the bar” for bespoke appliances. Specifically: bespoke refrigerators, which people can design themselves, choosing from a variety of styles, colors and original artwork or photography. How? “The MyBespoke custom design panels allow for your own photos or designs to be custom printed by Samsung on the French Doors of Bespoke refrigerators.” To demonstrate the allure of bespoke appliances, Samsung “partnered with three creators to showcase their own MyBespoke designs” and one of them, Katie Rodgers, lives at least part of the time in Santa Fe; her work “captures locale-based atmosphere and emotions in abstract form” through a variety of mediums: prints, video and poster prints (also: refrigerators). Of her bespoke fridge design, Rodgers says: “When I left New York and moved to New Mexico, I was inspired by a large Datura plant growing outside my window. The opening of its fragrant trumpet-shaped flowers expressed the simplicity of my new world: the stripping away of my city life and a pared down creative process amid the desert landscape.”

Happy many anniversaries

Despite the high temperatures and early wildfire season, summer has not yet arrived (although it’s less than a month away: June 21). Nonetheless, Cowboys & Indians magazine delves into “Santa Fe This Summer,” specifically because 2022 is the year of Indigenous Celebration, delivering one hundred years of Santa Fe Indian Market; the 100th Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial (not in Santa Fe, but cool); the 85th anniversary of the Wheelwright Museum; and the 60th anniversary of the Institute of American Indian Arts. You can see all the events, past and future, on the Indigenous Celebration NM website. While that’s a whole lot of anniversaries, Cowboys & Indians sagely notes “it doesn’t take a mega celebration to make travel to the City Different super-special” and lists 21 of “the memorable experiences that make Santa Fe one of our favorite places in the West.” That list includes Indian Market in August (natch); quaffing a cocktail at the rooftop bar at La Fonda Hotel (which also turned 100 this year); visiting the Botanical Garden (it’s their 35th anniversary); El Rancho de Las Golondrinas (it’s their 50th); and a whole lot of the usual margarita-drinking, chile-eating and Meow Wolf-going.

Hot streak

Temperatures continue to rise today. Santa Fe will be sunny with a high near 84 degrees and northeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, tomorrow will be even hotter and windier.

Thanks for reading! The Word thought yesterday’s New Yorker cartoon pretty much says it all.

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