Morning Word

SFPS To Consider Five District 4 Board Candidates Tomorrow

Rail Runner service resumes following fatal crash

SFPS board to consider five District 4 candidates

The Santa Fe Public Schools on Friday announced five candidates for the District 4 seat, vacated in June by Rudy Garcia, and says the Board of Education will hold a special public meeting at 5 pm tomorrow, July 26, to interview them. The candidates include Juan Blea, chief information officer for the state Regulation and Licensing Department, and a licensed drug and alcohol abuse counselor. He also holds a master’s of education in at-risk youth. Alba Blondis most recently worked in sales and management at Chico’s clothing store, and has prior experience as a Spanish teacher and manager at the Family Learning Institute in Chicago; she has a master’s degree in education, curriculum and instruction. Jodie Wheeler is a senior account and human resources manager for Hal Burns Truck and Equipment Service who has been involved as a volunteer at Sweeney Elementary School, Ortiz Middle School, Capital High School, among others, and serves as chair on the district’s Community Review Committee. Former District 3 City Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta is the chief professional officer for the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Fe/ Del Norte, and also previously served as Santa Fe County manager. John Baca is an executive assistant at the State Land Office, with prior experience at the state environment department and Santa Fe County Magistrate Court.

Train service restarts following fatal crash

Rail Runner train service is expected to resume today following a fatal crash yesterday that killed two people. State police, which responded to the incident, say the crash occurred on State Road 313 near milepost 15 by San Felipe Pueblo and involved the train and a vehicle, reportedly at a private crossing. Train service was suspended yesterday following the crash; according to a Rio Metro Regional Transit District operator, approximately 90 passengers were on board at the time, none of whom were injured. The names of the vehicular victims have not yet been released.

Officials also have not yet released the names of the two women killed last last week in a flash flood in the burn scar area of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, nor a man said to be in the vehicle for whom authorities continue to search. San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office officials say a capsized vehicle was located at the Tecolote Creek Channel along County Road A16B last Thursday afternoon following reports of flooding. First responders did not find any occupants in the vehicle, but following a search of the area found the bodies of two females in two different locations within the creek. Ongoing flash flooding remains a concern in the burn scar vicinity.

Report: CYFD workers suffer from burnout, fear, workload

The state Children, Youth and Families Department on Friday released a report showing major problems in the agency with turnover, a “culture of fear” and heavy workloads. Cabinet Secretary Barbara J. Vigil commissioned the report from Collaborative Safety LLC following her appointment to the position last August and in the aftermath of several child fatalities last year, including the death of a one-month old Valencia County child whose mother had previously contacted the agency expressing fear she would hurt her son. The report was supposed to have been completed by mid-April, according to the Albuquerque Journal. In a news release announcing the report, CYFD says the report’s recommendations align with those Vigil has made for the agency, which include overhauling its employee training protocols; creating “new critical incident teams” to review serious injuries, including child deaths; and joining the National Partnership for Child Safety, among other measures. “The work of CYFD touches 20,000 New Mexico families every year,” Vigil, a former state Supreme Court justice, said in a statement. “Our staff are passionate about the work they do, and when I took on leadership of this agency, I immediately wanted to identify and implement ways to improve the system for the children and families we interact with every day. This report highlights many of the challenges we are already addressing and further illuminates opportunities for improvement—and how we tackle them.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported July 22

New cases: 1,042; 584,404 total cases

Deaths: 20; Santa Fe County had 327 total deaths; there have been 8,191 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 192. Patients on ventilators: 12

Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends, for the seven-day period of July 11-17, Grant County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population: 70.8, followed by Lincoln County at 68.3 and Quay County at 68.1; Santa Fe County’s case rate was 44.3, up from 42.4 the week prior.

Community levels: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update for COVID-19 “community levels,” updated every Thursday, shows more than twice as many New Mexico counties now have red or “high” levels compared with last week. The CDC framework combines case rates with two hospital metrics and shows, for the seven-day period of July 14-20, 17 New Mexico counties—10 more than last week—now have “red” or high levels. Santa Fe County remains “yellow” or medium. Only four counties now have “green” or low levels—down from nine last week. The CDC’s recommendations include indoor masking for people living in counties with high community levels. The community levels page has accompanying recommendations at the bottom of the page. The CDC also provides a quarantine and isolation calculator.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. Vaccines for children: Parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for vaccinations at

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

Listen up

Last Thursday, the Jan. 6 committee closed out its eighth and final hearing until September (you can view them all here). Also last Thursday, KUNM’s Let’s Talk New Mexico program considered the impact of Jan. 6 on New Mexico’s elections and political landscape. Guests include: New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office Director of Communications Alex Curtas; Mason Graham from the New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative; Lonna Atkeson, professor of political science at Florida State University and former director for the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy at UNM; and Source New Mexico freelance reporter Andrew Beale.

A river does not run through it

The Washington Post writes about the Rio Grande—or what’s left of it at this point given the historic drought conditions in New Mexico. As a stretch of the river near Albuquerque runs dry, officials are rationing water and “rescuing silvery minnows stranded in the remaining puddles.” Public officials are “also warning residents to prepare for the sight of a bed of mud and sand where one of the nation’s longest rivers should flow,” the story notes. “Most folks in Albuquerque who have lived here have grown up always seeing the river have water,” Jason Casuga, CEO of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, tells the Post. “So it would be a real big surprise to wake up and go outside and look at the river and realize, hey there’s no water.” According to the US Drought Monitor, most of the state is experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought. Last week, investigators encountered “the stretch of gravel and sand,” where the river once ran. “We’re pretty much out of water at this point,” Casuga says.

Mel Gibson flick films in Las Cruces

Mel Gibson returned to Las Cruces last week to film The Informant, directed by Michael Oblowitz and produced by Daniel Cummings (Gibson also filmed Hot Seat in in Las Cruces last year); Kate Bosworth, Dominic Purcell and Nick Stahl also star in the movie According to the state Film Office, the film “tells the story of a terminally ill undercover narcotics cop who enlists the aid of his partner and their junkie informant to stage his death in order to support his financially struggling family.” The Las Cruces Sun-News spoke with Cummings, who says the story is based on a true story of narcotics officers from the 1990s, one of whom is a writer on the project. Cummings also noted “it’s not easy” to make Las Cruces look like Upstate New York. The Sun-News took a tour of the Old Doña Ana County Courthouse where the production was filming among other locations before moving on to Vancouver. Cummings has worked in New Mexico before and plans to bring two more productions here this year. “I saw how film-friendly the community is and how they’re really excited and really easy to work with,” he tells the paper. “And there’s a lot of locations that haven’t been seen in every other episode of Breaking Bad, like Albuquerque, so I think it’s a very good place for film. Especially indie film because you don’t always have the big, big budgets.” The Film Office says the production was expected to employ approximately 30 New Mexico crew members, two New Mexico principal actors and approximately 10 New Mexico background talent.

Chill out

If you enjoyed last week’s scalding temperatures, you may not mind the next few decades. For the rest of us, the National Weather Service forecasts a little relief today with a high temperature of 85 degrees, along with scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon and a 40% chance of precipitation. Temps should stay in the low 80s with increasing chances for rain all week.Thanks for reading! The Word is jealous of everyone who got to see Joni Mitchell perform at the Newport Folk Festival yesterday.

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