Morning Word

Santa Fe Educator Wins NM Teacher of the Year

Santa Fe County OKs moratorium on short-term rentals for new owners

Morning Word

PED names Santa Fe educator teacher of the year

The state Public Education Department yesterday announced that Nye Early Childhood Center Pre-K teacher Tara Hughes is the 2023 teacher of the year—the first early childhood educator to receive the distinction. The teacher of the year program began in 1963; the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is the title sponsor for this year’s program and will cover any travel and professional costs for Hughes. “Ms. Hughes is a shining example of how to deliver a top-notch education to our youngest learners,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. The governor, Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez and SFPS board members attended a ceremony for Hughes yesterday. “Tara is an outstanding teacher and will be a wonderful teacher ambassador for New Mexico,” Chavez said. “She has developed an outstanding model in her classroom that weaves academics with laying the foundation for students’ social, communicative and emotional development.” According to SFPS, Hughes “found her passion for education” while working as a carpenter and welder who ran the Santa Fe Opera stage crew, a role in which she instructed college-age students in stage operations and construction. Later work as a special educational assistant inspired Hughes to earn a master’s degree in special education at New Mexico Highlands University. Hughes told the Albuquerque Journal she was shocked, surprised and honored to receive the award. “There’s so many teachers out there who are amazing, and I just feel honored that I can represent everyone’s voice,” she said.

The state named Nye Early Childhood Education Center teacher Tara Hughes of Santa Fe its 2023 teacher of the year. Photo courtesy SFPS

SF County to pause STR permits for new owners

The Santa Fe County Commission on Tuesday voted 3-1 to enact a year-long moratorium starting in March on new permits to operate short-term rentals. During the moratorium, the county intends to collect information and determine whether to cap new rentals or limit those that are operated by out-of-town owners. “What we are going to do is to get everybody registered under the ordinance…so that we can see how many non-owner-occupied STRs there are,” Commissioner Anna Hansen said. The moratorium accompanies new rules governing short-term rentals in the county that distinguish owner-occupied properties from those whose owners live elsewhere, with higher fees and more stringent annual reviews for the those in the latter category. The Santa Fe Association of Realtors opposes the new ordinance: “The ordinance in its current form is inherently unfair,” SFAR President Andrea Dobyns said during the meeting. “The regulation will protect existing property owners’ right to rent short term while eliminating that right for new property owners,” and “create a market advantage for existing property owners for the foreseeable future.” Residents from Pojoaque to Madrid and other regions of the county testified at the hearing, the commission’s third on the topic. Many argued against the rules, including fees of $35 per year for owner-occupied units and $375 per year for non-owner-occupied; others said county rules were long overdue since the City of Santa Fe has regulated such rentals for years and the region faces a shortage of long-term housing. SFR’s Letters to the Editor section this week also features several commentaries on the topic.

More than 10% registered voters cast ballots for Nov. 8 election

As of yesterday, more than 137,000 New Mexicans have cast ballots in the Nov. 8 general election, according to the Secretary of State’s office. That represents approximately 10% of registered voters statewide, based on the most recent voter registration statistics. Of those early and absentee voters, 55.6% were registered Democrats; 32.5% were Republicans; nearly 11% were DTS (declined-to-state or independent) voters; and the rest were either registered as Libertarians—the state’s other recognized major party—or to a minor party. Thus far, 1,647 people have utilized same-day voter registration: 44.5% have registered as Democrats; 36% as Republicans; nearly 18% as DTS; and less than 1.5% as either Libertarian or other. Santa Fe County reports more than 17,000 voters have cast ballots thus far—approximately 15.4% of those currently registered. “Turnout so far has been exceptional here in Santa Fe County!” Santa Fe County Clerk Katharine Clark tweeted yesterday. If you’re inclined to participate in hashtag campaigns, the clerk’s office is encouraging folks to “share” their voting stories with the hasthtag #santafevotes for possible inclusion on the Santa Fe Votes website. As for the races themselves, the poll analysis site FiveThirtyEight still ranks incumbent Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the lead against GOP challenger Mark Ronchetti—48.7% versus 41.1%—an assessment that includes a new poll released earlier this week by Trafalgar Group, a Republican-funded firm, which showed Ronchetti with a slight lead: 46.6% versus 45.5%.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Oct. 27: New cases: 514; 626,168 total cases; Deaths: nine; Santa Fe County has had 357 total deaths; there have been 8,631 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 117. Patients on ventilators: five. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Oct. 20 “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk for the prior seven-day period, downgraded seven New Mexico counties to “yellow,” or medium risk levels, mostly in the northeast region of the state (Union, Harding, Mora, San Miguel, Guadalupe and De Baca counties), as well as McKinley County in the northwest. The rest of New Mexico’s counties continue to have green, aka 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; 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

Got a ghost story to share? Now’s the time. On this morning’s 8 am episode of Let’s Talk New Mexico on KUNM, ghost hunters and storytellers will delve into why supernatural tales have enduring appeal, and what some of them reveal about New Mexico. Guests include: Nasario García, author of Brujas, Bultos y Brasas: Tales of Witchcraft and the Supernatural in the Pecos Valley; Hannah Nordhaus, author of American Ghost: A Family’s Extraordinary History on the Desert Frontier; former ghost hunter Julia C. Butler-Brown, owner of ABQ Tours; and Steven Emmons, KUNM Radio Operations manager. Call in or email with your own spooky tales: (505) 277-5866 or

Film safety concerns remain post-Rust

The LA Times examines “Hollywood’s broken promises” to improve film-set safety following the shooting incident last October on the Rust set, in which a gun fired by actor and producer Alec Baldwin killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. Despite the shock waves of the Rust shooting, little has changed in terms of gun safety, according to crew members, union officials and other people the Times interviewed. They include New Mexico-based armorer Scott Rasmussen, a member of IATSE Local 480, who turned down a job to be armorer and prop master on Rust. “I have tried to get licensing for armorers in the state and the union has just stonewalled,” Rasmussen said. Earlier this month, Rust Movie Productions settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Hutchins’ husband Matthew Hutchins, who announced filming would resume (not in New Mexico). That announcement comes despite an as-yet unresolved criminal investigation. On the Oct. 21 one-year anniversary of the shooting, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies’ office released a statement reaffirming her commitment “to pursuing justice for the victims, and getting answers for the community.” Meanwhile, a push to ban guns on set in California came to naught. In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told the Times last year she also would consider new regulations for firearms on set but, as yet, no proposals have emerged. “While robust safety procedures are currently in place regarding the use of guns in production, we will continue to monitor the findings of the ongoing investigations into the events on the Rust set and evaluate the need for potential further action,” Film New Mexico spokesperson Dolores Martinez said in a statement.

Deep questions, beautiful photos

Santa Fe-based photographer and National Geographic Fellow Chris Rainier has traversed the world documenting sacred sites and locales since the 1980s. “It came from my desire to get at the essence of life beyond daily existence,” he tells the BBC. “Why are we here? This is a question every society and every human has asked themselves since the dawn of mankind.” Rainier’s new book, Sacred: In Search of Meaning (Mandala Publishing, October, 2022) captures 40 years of visiting “locations cloaked in mysticism and imbued with a spiritual energy, exploring the meaning of the sacred in a global, multicultural context.” Those locations include the peaks of Tibet, Antarctic icebergs, the druid stones of Scotland and ancient rock art—petroglyphs—in the Southwest. “Living in Santa Fe in New Mexico, I’ve always had a fascination with the First Nations peoples,” Rainier tells the BBC. One photo included in the story, from Utah, shows 4,000-year-old handprints. “You can imagine an ancient person putting their hand up to the red wall, taking the ochre and applying the paint onto the rock,” he says. “I imagine a group of hunters sitting in the shade, maybe saying ‘Why don’t we put our signature here?’ For me, it could be about existence, saying: ‘We are here.’”

Grab your mittens

The National Weather Service forecasts a 50% chance for rain and snow showers today between 9 am and noon, then a chance for snow showers after noon. Some thunder is also possible. Otherwise, it will be mostly cloudy, with a high temperature near 45 degrees and southwest wind 10 to 15 mph becoming north in the afternoon. We have a slightly reduced chance (30%) for snow showers tonight before midnight. If you happen to come across a forecast for 4 to 5 feet of snow, that is apparently due to experimental probabilistic snowfall products that are displaying bad data.

Thanks for reading! The Word enjoyed perusing this year’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize winners—plus one of the (non-prize-winning) photos the National Portrait Gallery chose for the London exhibition was shot in Albuquerque.

Letters to the Editor

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