Morning Word

City Council Approves Old Pecos Trail Rezoning

Lawmakers take up proposed ban on controlled burns in spring

City Council approves Old Pecos Trail rezoning

Following a special public hearing on Saturday morning, the Santa Fe City Council voted 6-3 in favor of rezoning near Old Pecos Trail and West Zia Road. District 2 Councilors Carol Romero-Wirth and Michael Garcia, in whose district the area falls, along with District 3 Councilor Lee Garcia, voted in opposition. That rezoning decision paves the way for developer Pierre Amestoy to build 25 homes on a 9.5-acre private property versus the nine that would have been allowed under the prior zoning. The vote in favor came in the face of neighborhood opposition that became, as the Santa Fe New Mexican notes, “a flashpoint for debates about open space, city land use policies and processes and the city’s housing shortage.” Two prior meetings on the proposal included hours of testimony from opponents such as lawyer Bruce Throne, who has lived in the area of the proposed development for more than 30 years. “I think there are very strong procedural due process grounds for their vote today being contrary to facts and applicable law,” Throne told the paper following the hearing. “I think there are a lot of people from all over the community—not just the neighborhood—who feel very strongly about this and will raise money to appeal the decision after it’s finalized.”

Council to consider gun, youth violence proposals

If approved by the Santa Fe City Council at its Wednesday, Jan. 25 night meeting, the city and Santa Fe County will launch next month a collaborative youth violence prevention unit, using $100,000 from the county’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. According to a memo explaining the project, the city will secure a provider for the program, who will “pilot, evaluate, improve and expand a program to recruit, support, educate and employ youth at high risk for violence, building their capacity to serve as community support workers and contribute to youth violence prevention over time.” The initiative follows, the memo notes, “growing concerns” from the community over the last few years “with what appears to be an increase in violence involving youth, guns, and drugs” (SFR reported last summer on the uptick in youth-related firearms deaths). The Council at its Wednesday night meeting also is slated to vote on Mayor Alan Webber’s proposal to ban firearms on city properties that are used for school-related activities. Both the youth violence prevention program and firearms ban appear, at present, on the city’s consent agenda, and will not therefore engender discussion. Also on the agenda: an as-yet-unpublished resolution that would support Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State of the State call to ban assault weapons in the state. Legislation proposing such a ban, sponsored by state Reps. Andrea Romero and Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, is currently in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee, but does not appear to have been scheduled for a hearing as of yet.

Legislators tackle post-burn laws

State lawmakers this week will discuss a bill that would appropriate $100 million for low-interest loans to any local governments approved and awaiting assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damage from the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, is scheduled for discussion on Tuesday by the Senate Conservation Committee. Campos tells the Albuquerque Journal the bill—which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham backs—is intended to restore services to communities where some people have yet to return to their homes in the wake of damage, a situation that “is having a definite mental and physical impact on the population,” he said. The Journal also spent some time last week with the Forest Stewards Guild as it conducted its first controlled pile burn of the season at Glorieta Camps (watch a clip of some of that work as it transpires). Speaking of controlled burns, the Conservation Committee will also take up this week a bill from state Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, that would prohibit them in the spring. View the most current state Senate committee schedule here; and the House committee schedule here.

ISO PRC tribal advisory council members, senior positions

Today marks the deadline for applicants for the Public Regulation Commission Tribal Advisory Council, created last month through executive order by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The council will include one representative from the eight northern pueblos; one from the 11 southern Pueblos; one from one of the Apache tribes; and one from the Navajo Nation; and is “designed to advise the commission on issues relevant to New Mexico’s Native American communities and provide recommendations on how the PRC may best address those issues.” Applicants can apply through today here. And speaking of the PRC, that newly assembled agency is advertising for a chief of staff and chief general counsel, positions the agency describes as “essential to supporting and advancing the PRC’s work in regulating public utilities, telecommunications, pipelines and motor carrier industries to ensure that customers pay fair and reasonable rates and receive safe and reliable services.” More info on both positions, including professional and educational requirements; salaries; and instructions on applying can be found here.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Jan. 20New cases: 167; 663,299 total cases. Deaths: 12; Santa Fe County has had 385 total deaths; 8,919 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 82. Patients on ventilators: six

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Jan. 19 “community levels” map shows one county categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19: Roosevelt County. 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

Is the unexamined life worth living? Is tyranny antithetical to freedom? Is mathematics the perfect language? These are just a few of the questions a new podcast from St. John’s College tackles. Continuing the Conversation, described as the “college’s antidote to the blustery world just beyond our library doors,” brings a simulacrum of St. John’s seminar experience to the outside world. More specifically, the podcast—like the school’s Great Books curriculum—tackles big questions via history’s big thinkers. For instance, the first three episodes, all available to stream, delve into topics via Euclid, Socrates, Confucius et. al. Catch the trailer here.

Pushback on Rust charges

Not everyone is sold on the reasoning behind First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies’ decision—announced last week—to bring involuntary manslaughter charges against Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin for his role in the Oct. 21, 2021 film-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. In an analysis for Bloomberg, Yale University Law Professor and author Stephen L. Carter writes while he has “no particular reason to defend Alec Baldwin,” the manslaughter charges are “unsettling.” The incident was a “horrific accident, yes. But a crime? Here, matters are murkier.” That murk, Carter explains, lies to some degree in Carmack-Altwies’ declaration that Baldwin had “an absolute duty to know that what is in the gun that is being placed in his hand is safe.” If so, Carter ponders, from what source does that duty originate? “As far as I’ve been able to determine, no one has ever sought to charge an actor for discharging a live round from a prop,” he writes. The actors union, SAG-AFTRA, would seem to concur with that legal analysis. As The Hollywood Reporter reports, the union issued a statement following Carmack-Altwies’ announcement last week in which it said her “contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is wrong and uninformed. An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert. Firearms are provided for their use under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm.” Carmack-Altwies says she will be filing comparable charges against the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.

Happens to the best of us

Travel & Leisure magazine includes the Santa Fe Rail Trail in its roundup of the 15 best rail trails in the US. As noted in the magazine, the trail begins “in the hip and up-and-coming Railyard District—a great place to grab a bite or a beer”—and then “meanders through the city before passing through a wild desert landscape that includes yucca, juniper, and piñon trees. The route ends in the town of Lamy at the century-old train depot.” And speaking of Santa Fe’s best, the clock is ticking on USA TODAY’s 10Best awards for 2023, with the Santa Fe Plaza currently a contender in the “best public square” category (in the fourth position on the leaderboard the last time we checked). IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts also is in the running in the “Best Art Museum” category (currently in fifth place). Vote daily until polls close on Feb. 13 (apologies if we missed other Santa Fe organizations in any of the other categories). Consider it practice in advance of SFR’s annual Best of Santa Fe edition; nominations for our homegrown competition begin Feb. 1.

Monday bluster

If it sounded windy as you awoke, that’s cause it’s windy. And it’s going to stay that way. The National Weather Service forecasts a cloudy day with a high near 36 degrees and east wind 25 to 35 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Tonight, we have a 30% chance for snow, primarily after 11 pm, with accumulation of less than half an inch possible. However, official snow fall predictions, it turns out, represent “just a fraction of the possible outcomes contained within official forecasts.” If you’d like to drill down, the New York Times offers an interactive tool to see the range of possibilities for our next snow storm. Either way, the weather should dry up by the end of the week, but it’s going to stay cold.

Thanks for reading! While The Word is a fan of the New York Review of Books, she’s not fashionable enough to wear its covers (she also was somewhat entertained by these literary/fashion interviews).

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