Morning Word

SFPS Voices Concerns as Planning Commission Hears Midtown Plans

Election officials work to counter voting misinformation

Midtown plans hit planning commission, SFPS objects

The City of Santa Fe Planning Commission tonight will hear and consider a slew of requests related to land-use on the Midtown redevelopment project. The proposals include a general plan amendment from institutional to transitional mixed-use for the 64-acre Midtown site; master-plan approval; rezoning from residential to planned unit-development; and rezoning from residential to general commercial for 24-acre adjacent parcels. Materials for tonight’s meeting include a letter to the Planning Commission from Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez expressing concerns about the city’s plans, noting that “within the greater boundaries of the midtown area, SFPS owns three separate properties,” each of which would be impacted by the application before the planning commission. “SFPS has not been consulted and has not agreed to any changes, either now or in the future, with respect to its land,” Chavez’s letter states. “It is in the best interest of the City to pause going forward with the adoption of the Midtown Master Plan until the City has negotiated in good faith and transparency and come to an agreement with SFPS regarding how the proposed development of the Midtown area will affect SFPS properties.” (View a map series here).

A city news release says the plans are in service of a new “city center” that will include: more than 1,000 units of market-rate and affordable housing; expanded film, TV and digital production facilities; spaces for performances, visual arts and other cultural events; an education hub with a state-of-the art central library and community center; and recreation facilities and green spaces. “Years of work have gone into these plans, which have been developed according to public input and guidelines stipulated by Governing Body resolutions,” Economic & Community Development Director Rich Brown said in a statement. “We are enthused that the public, the Planning Commission, and the governing body will have the opportunity to learn more details and provide valuable feedback for what I believe will be one of the most momentous developments in Santa Fe in the twenty-first century.” The City Council is expected to vote next month on the plans.

Election officials counter misinformation

With the Nov. 8 general election drawing nearer and early/absentee voting off to a brisk start, election officials yesterday met with local media to demonstrate security measures in place in an attempt to counter ongoing misinformation campaigns. Those campaigns focus, to a degree, on the Dominion Voting Systems equipment, which became a flashpoint in various conspiracy theories born out of the 2020 election. A Dominion representative was on hand for yesterday’s demonstration, but the Secretary of State’s Office asked for the person to not be named. “Dominion reps have been subjected to threats and harassment stemming from the lies about the 2020 election and subsequent elections,” SOS Communications Secretary Alex Curtas told SFR. “So we’re just trying to keep everyone safe.” The demonstration included detailed information about how the machines are programmed; failsafe measures in the event of power outages; and various security measures, such as passcodes and multi-factor authentication. Toulouse Oliver said long-term efforts are needed to educate the public about “civic education and engagement on how our systems work.” People casting doubt on the voting systems, she noted, “are a small group, but they have a very loud megaphone. So we need to try to combine forces so that our megaphone is just as loud, if not louder.” The office also has measures in place to address any disturbances at the polls, including a “virtual situation room” connecting election officials with local, state and federal law enforcement. “If a public safety issue were to arise, or an obstruction of the polling place issue were to arise, we have a very quick…rapid response system in place to be able to deal with those issues,” Toulouse Oliver said. According to the SOS, as of yesterday, 36,760 people have cast ballots statewide. In Santa Fe County, 2,992 people have voted. A total of 86,499 voters have requested absentee ballots (nearly 65% of whom are registered Democrats).

Hot take on chile

Researchers at New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Breeding and Genetics Program are using a $477,074 grant from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study and improve the peppers’ nutritional value and yield. “The genetics of nutritional content and yield in New Mexican chile peppers is currently not well understood,” Dennis Nicuh Lozada, NMSU’s chile pepper breeder and director of the Chile Pepper Breeding and Genetics Program said in a news release about the research. “We hope to understand the genetics of higher-yielding and more nutritious chile peppers. This knowledge can help drive our breeding and selection decisions.” Research began last spring at NMSU’s Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center in Las Cruces and involves “two novel genomic approaches—genome-wide association studies and genomic selection—to accelerate the selection, breeding and development of chile pepper varieties with improved nutritional content and yield.” Lozada says researchers already have data and some of the findings have been published: “We have the DNA sequence information, and we will be growing our population over the next few years for multi-location, multi-year data analysis.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Oct. 19: New cases: 268; 623,179 total cases; Deaths: 0; Santa Fe County has had 353 total deaths; there have been 8,601 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 104. Patients on ventilators: three. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Oct. 13 “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk for the prior seven-day period, all of New Mexico is once again green, aka has low levels. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result; Curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. 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

New Mexico’s rivers do not have their own rights, which means that under the state’s priority administration systems, the rivers run dry as other interests extract water. In the most recent episode of New Mexico PBS’ “Our Land” program, host and environmental journalist Laura Paskus talks with Audubon Southwest Director of Freshwater Conservation Paul Tashjian about ways New Mexico could—and should—protect its rivers.

Honoring Harjo

Last spring, former New Mexico resident Joy Harjo finished her third term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States—the first Native American to serve in that position. This week, she received a lifetime achievement award during Americans for the Arts’ National Art Awards ceremony in New York. Harjo spoke with Vogue magazine about her career and the award. “I’m really honored to be part of it. If you look at the previous honorees of this Lifetime Achievement Award, it’s really humbling to be a part of that company,” she says, noting that she shook hands with former recipient BB King once at the former Paolo Soleri theater. Harjo, who attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe before receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico, tells Vogue: “While I was an undergrad at the University of New Mexico, I was an art major, and I heard contemporary Native poets for the first time. Suddenly, I was in those circles, and I started writing my own. We all have gifts that are almost folded up, and they’re placed in between the heart and where your spirit lives, and then they unfold at different times. They need a way out.” Harjo discusses writing at greater length in her new book, Catching the Light, which published earlier this month. Read an excerpt via LitHub.

Get the picture

Hyperallergic magazine reviews the New Mexico Museum of Art’s exhibition “Transgressions and Amplifications: Mixed-Media Photography of the 1960s and 1970s,” (through Jan. 8), an exhibition that showcases experimental photographers—many centered in New Mexico—who challenged the medium’s norms at the time. As the exhibition website notes: “Against the backdrop of the Vietnam conflict and social justice movements, these artists incorporated historic photo processes but also printmaking, collage, and new technologies such as photocopying and Verifax, even bringing photography off the wall with books and sculptural pieces.” The show, Hyperallergic opines, “exhaustively explores its subject,” using material from NMMA’s collection, as well as the University of New Mexico Art Museum and other institutions. “Many pieces restore the ‘objectness’ of the photograph that is lost when a viewer looks past the surface of a print and sees a picture of something else, a moment in time, another reality,” the story notes. The review finds fault in some aspects of the exhibit, such as educational panels that ask “What’s wrong with this picture?” But “if you have a few hours to spend deeply examining and analyzing each artist’s mixed-media image-making methodology and appreciating the evidence of their hands in each work,” the show is “a fascinating and informative exhibit worthy of slow and careful study.”

Fall feels

The National Weather Service forecasts another beautiful day, Santa Fe: sunny, with a high temperature near 67 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. We peeked ahead, though, and there’s a slight chance for snow on Monday!

Thanks for reading! As a self-diagnosed mosquito-magnet, The Word found this Washington Post story interesting (and a little gross).

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