Morning Word

LFC: Give State Workers 5% Raises

Judge rules Santa Fe sword murder case can proceed to trial

LFC: Give state workers 5% raises

In its recommendations for the state’s 2024 fiscal year budget—released yesterday—the Legislative Finance Committee recommends state employees receive 5% raises. That’s in comparison to the 4% raises recommended in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s budget, released earlier this week. The $9.4 billion budgets have a fair amount of overlap as the state considers how to allocate nearly $3.6 billion in “new money.” The LFC budget includes $328 million for average pay raises of 5% for state and education employees; $80 million “to backfill” federal Medicaid spending; $109 million to expand prekindergarten; and a $263 million recurring and $261 million nonrecurring increase for public schools. Reserves would be 30% of planned spending, compared to 34.9% in the governor’s recommended budget. Appropriations for the Early Childhood Education and Care Department in the LFC budget would increase by nearly 72%—or $140 million—with the department receiving additional funding from the early childhood trust fund and the new distribution from the land grant permanent fund recently approved by voters. (The early childhood department also announced yesterday it has received a $6.4 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation). In speaking with the Albuquerque Journal, LFC Chair Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, acknowledges potential conflict ahead over some differences between the legislators’ proposals and the governor’s, such as whether to fully cover educators’ health care costs, as proposed by Lujan Grisham. “The more money there is, the higher the pressure,” Lundstrom says. And speaking of money, state officials yesterday agreed to pursue a longstanding plan for a new state building to the tune of $100 million, despite ongoing concerns about the cost and utility of such plans in the age of telework.

Judge: Santa Fe sword murder case can proceed to trial

First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer yesterday ruled prosecutors have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial against 26-year-old Isaac Apodaca, who faces one count each of accessory to first-degree murder and conspiracy in the Oct. 29, 2022 killing of 21-year-old Grace Jennings. Apodaca “participated in this plan from the very get go,” Marlowe Sommer said. “In fact, I think there’s probable cause that he’s the one that came up with this plan.” Santa Fe Police arrested Apodaca and 21-year-old Kiara McCulley last fall in a Southside home in Santa Fe and initially charged both with murder in connection with Jennings’ death. McCulley was placed in psychiatric care at the Las Vegas Behavioral Health Institute and is awaiting determination on whether she’s fit to stand trial. McCulley still faces a first-degree murder charge along with tampering with evidence and a conspiracy charge. While there’s no allegation Apodaca killed Jennings, prosecutors have used social media communications to depict Apodaca as the manipulative puppet master who pushed McCulley to kill Jennings with a sword about 3 feet in length. Marlowe Sommer ruled from the bench in front of about a dozen of Jennings’ friends and family members. She ruled in November to keep Apodaca in custody without bond.

SFPS board chooses new leaders

In their meeting last night—the first of the year—members of the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education unanimously agreed to shuffle their roles (just before the hour mark of the meeting video): former Vice President Sarah Boses will serve as president through 2023; Sascha Anderson will serve as vice president; and Roman “Tiger” Abeyta will be secretary. “As I have said, I do not want to continue as the president,” former President Kate Noble said at the start of the vote. “Even if that were the pleasure of the board.” Noble said she had felt honored to serve as president over the last four years, but suggested future terms should be shorter, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors had led to the length of her term. “It’s a pretty long time and I would even suggest that this board consider returning to what seemed to be the long-held convention when I took office, which was to rotate officers every year—at least every one to two years—a year can actually be a very short term, but I think it is good to both develop leadership and keep things fresh, to rotate officers somewhat more often.” That being said, “I feel truly honored and ready to not be the president anymore.” Upon her election, Boses said she too felt honored and wanted to extend “gratitude” to Noble “for being such an inspiration.”

RY landlord wants Boxcar out

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports First Judicial District Judge Bryan Biedscheid yesterday said he will hold a bench trial to hear testimony in the dispute between Railyard restaurant/bar Boxcar and its landlord. Last August, Gross Kelly Warehouse LLC filed a complaint against Boxcar for breach of its lease and wants the bar evicted. The complaint alleged the business owed a percentage of rent as per its lease, and had “failed to comply with the laws and rules and regulations regarding the provision of alcoholic beverages and has over-served patrons who have caused damage, destruction, and threats of violence” to Gross Kelly’s other tenants. In yesterday’s hearing, Gross Kelly’s attorney said they had agreed to forego Boxcar’s percentage rent in exchange for the bar vacating its lease early, but it had not vacated by February, 2022 as agreed. Boxcar’s lawyer, in turn, opposed the eviction and says the business is attempting to relocate to Plaza Mercado and an eviction would damage both its employees and customers. “We are doing all the things necessary to move,” lawyer Daniel O’Friel said. “We do not want to be in a space where we are not wanted.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Jan. 12New cases: 241; 662,084 total cases. Deaths: 16; Santa Fe County has had 383 total deaths; 8,879 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 82. Patients on ventilators: one

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Jan. 12 “community levels” map shows two counties (versus one last week) categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19: De Baca and Hidalgo. The rest of the state—including Santa Fe County—is green, aka has low risk. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via; Check availability for additional free COVID-19 tests through Project ACT; CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; 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. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.

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

Listen up

At 6 pm this evening, scholar Myrriah Gómez discusses her book Nuclear Nuevo México with writer Alicia Inez Guzmán, examining how “earlier eras of settler colonialism” in New Mexico “laid the foundation for nuclear colonialism in New Mexico.” The event takes place at Collected Works Bookstore, but can also be viewed on Zoom. Register to watch here and order the book here. Gómez is a member of the University of New Mexico Honors College and directs the Conexiones-Spain study abroad program. She is also faculty coordinator for the UNM Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

Judge sanctions artist in suit against Meow Wolf

Artist Lauren Adele Oliver’s nearly three-year-long legal case against Meow Wolf has taken a turn—for the defendants. Last week, US District Judge for New Mexico Steven C. Yarbrough granted sanctions against Oliver, who sued Meow Wolf in March 2020 for $1 million over the copyright of her sculpture Space Owl. As detailed in a story from Artnet News, the artist alleges Meow Wolf promised her an “artist revenue share” for her work, but says she only received $2,000, even after the company raised millions and expanded into other cities. Now, Yarbrough has ruled Meow Wolf can bring evidence that Oliver deliberately destroyed five years worth of emails prior to filing her lawsuit. Meow Wolf previously asked the court for sanctions and was denied. But in his new ruling, Yarbrough writes, new evidence in the form of a text message from the plaintiff prior to filing “demonstrates that Plaintiff acted in bad faith,” he writes. As such, she will have to pay for Meow Wolf’s legal fees for the motion to reconsider sanctions, as well as the original motion requesting them. While Meow Wolf did not provide comment to ArtNews, Oliver’s attorney, Jesse Boyd, described the court’s ruling as “complex” in an email to the newspaper and said “we are weighing our options. We disagree with many of the findings of the judge, and this should not distract from the merits of the case. We intend to demonstrate at trial that Meow Wolf, Inc., impersonated an art collective in order to misappropriate the work of dozens of artists, including Lauren’s, as well as the labor of hundreds of volunteers and the financial support of the Santa Fe community in order to launch their entertainment empire.”

Transcendental paintings transcend

We’ve mentioned “Another World: The Transcendental Painting Group, 1938–1945″ before—it’s a traveling exhibition, after all. However, its current stop at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—where it opened last month—is its last. And it received a glowing review in the LA Times from Pulitzer Prize winning arts critic Christopher Knight, in case you have a trip planned to LA before the show ends on June 19. Back story: The exhibition was organized by the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA. It came to New Mexico in 2021 (the Albuquerque Museum) and has also been at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Baker Museum in Naples, Florida. It showcases 80 works by 11 artists associated with the Transcendental Painting Group, formed in 1938 in New Mexico. Knight writes: “During the month of June in 1938, a number of historically significant events took place.” There was the “final devastating wave” of the Great Depression, for instance, and Nazi Germany’s passage of a law “to confiscate destroy what fascists long claimed to be ‘degenerate art,’ which caused the brilliant Expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, brutally targeted, to take his own life.” Also on the list of significant events: “In New Mexico, one of our nation’s poorest states, the Transcendental Painting Group was founded.” Knight describes TPG as “high on the list of Best Kept Secrets in Modern art.” Thanks to the exhibit, he notes, “happily, the beans are now being spilled.”

Wet weekend

The National Weather Service forecasts today and tomorrow will be mostly sunny with high temperatures near 51 degrees and a little bit of north wind in the 10 to 15 mph range. Starting Saturday night, we have a 20% chance for rain and snow showers after 11 pm, which increases to a 60% chance for snow showers Sunday morning before 11 am. Chances for precipitation decrease, but continue, straight on through Monday and into mid-week, with temperatures dropping back into the 40s.

Thanks for reading! The Word returns Tuesday, Jan. 17 after the long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. By then she will have perused this list of books to read in 2023.

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