Gov, lawmakers target guns, thieves, pretrial detention
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with a group of bipartisan lawmakers and public safety officials, yesterday held a news conference to discuss public safety priorities during this year’s legislative session, including another attempt to upend New Mexico’s pretrial detention system by creating a so-called “rebuttable presumption” via Senate Bill 123. Attempts to shift the burden in pretrial detention hearings from prosecutor to defense failed in last year’s session. As detailed in a news release, other public safety priorities include: creating a category of organized retail crime in state statue and targeting offenders for racketeering; the creation of a new public safety council; banning the purchase, import, delivery and manufacture of assault weapons and 50-caliber weapons via House Bill 101; closing a state loophole on straw purchases of guns; enacting criminal penalties for adults who negligently fail to secure firearms from minors through House Bill 9; allowing victims of gun violence to bring civil suits against firearm manufacturers through legislation that will be sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces; and allocating $100 million to the Law Enforcement Recruitment Fund. “We’re going to work collectively to get as many of the best ideas up here as possible,” the governor said, “and my goal is to be in a position to sign as many of these efforts as possible.” Meanwhile, the Santa Fe City Council last night voted 7-2 in favor of Mayor Alan Webber’s resolution prohibiting guns at certain city facilities that host school activities and directing the city manager to post signs to that effect at such facilities.
Council cracks down on cars that go boom
The Santa Fe City Council last night also approved a measure to increase penalties for drivers who violate a city ordinance requiring vehicles have operational mufflers to prevent “excessive or unusual noise.” The ordinance also bans muffler bypasses, cutouts and similar devices or modifications. Santa Fe police say they are handing out more tickets for noisy vehicles these days than in years past, but argue the $25 fine is too small to goad drivers into compliance. Following last night’s vote, within 90 days the fine will increase to $100 for a first offense; $250 for second-timers; and $500 after that. The measure also makes muffler modifications illegal. District 1 Councilor Signe Lindell had backed raising the fine for a first offense to $250, but other councilors expressed concern the ordinance will target mostly younger motorists. “For many individuals in our community, $250 is a very high fine,” District 4 Councilor Jamie Cassutt said. While the compromise still makes muffler violations some of the more expensive fines under city code, Lindell remains skeptical the increase will deter the behavior: “I think a $100 fine is really not realistic to effect any change,” she said.
Dems propose more tax rebates
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday announced her support for legislation that would deliver another round of $750 tax rebates for individual filers and $1,500 for joint filers. “As prices remain high across the country, we can and we should take action to help more New Mexicans afford the things they need right now,” the governor said in a statement. “As our state continues to see the results of our continued and targeted investments that have resulted in an unprecedented financial windfall, I look forward to working with the Legislature to put more money back in the pockets of New Mexico families.” Senate Bill 10, sponsored by state Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, along with Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos and Speaker of the House Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, is one of several pieces of tax-related legislation expected this session. If approved, the payments would be distributed by the Taxation and Revenue Department this summer. The Legislature and governor approved comparable rebates last year. SB10 is currently in the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee, chaired by Shendo: “New Mexico is seeing an unprecedented revenue projection for the year ahead, and we are in a great position to make bold investments for both today and the future,” Shendo said in a statement. “This rebate will help thousands of families across the state as we continue recovering from the struggles we’ve faced these last few years.”
Judge clears accused sword murderer for trial
Kiara McCulley, 20, accused of killing 21-year-old Grace Jennings last October with a 2-to-3-foot sword, is competent to stand trial, according to a court order filed earlier this week. First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer in November deemed McCulley incompetent to stand trial and ordered her transferred to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, where she was held for close to three months. Santa Fe Police say McCulley told investigators she has an undiagnosed multiple personality disorder after she was initially read her Miranda rights, but court records do not confirm such a diagnosis. McCulley, who was booked back into the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility on Jan. 10, according to jail records, faces one count each of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and evidence tampering. The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office alleges McCulley committed the murder at the behest of her boyfriend, Isaac Apodaca, who was in court earlier this month for a preliminary hearing, during which Marlowe Sommer ruled sufficient evidence exists to move forward with his trial.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Jan. 25: New cases: 156; 664,024 total cases. Deaths: five; Santa Fe County has had 386 total deaths; 8,932 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 75. 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 COVIDTests.gov; 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.
Hard to miss the tsunami of news last week when First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced her intention to charge both Alec Baldwin and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the film’s set Oct. 21, 2021. On a recent episode of the Bloomberg Law podcast, host June Grasso talks with former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz—a partner at the McCarter & English law firm—about those charges and what to expect if the Rust case ends up going to trial.
Five NM chefs in the running for James Beard award
The James Beard Foundation yesterday announced its semifinalists for 2023 in a variety of categories, including best chef in the Southwest. New Mexico has five contenders (there are 20 in all), including in Santa Fe: Luis and Berenice Medina of the Early Street food truck El Chile Toreado; and David Sellers of Horno Restaurant. “It’s beyond me that we’re even in the realm of these other restaurants,” Berenice Medina told SFR. “We’re still just a little stand, so it’s surprising, but I feel like it’s been the hardest three years of our lives, just as humans and as a business, so having this…is very hopeful for us.” Sellers, who has been nominated before at prior restaurants, also expressed surprise and appreciation at this year’s nod. “It’s super-validating and nice to be appreciated on a high level,” he said, noting that the awards in the past had seemed more “geared toward ultra-fine dining, and you can see clearly in the stuff that’s nominated in New Mexico that there’s a shift away from that.” Andrea Meyer from The Love Apple in Taos also made the list, as did Basit Gauba from Tikka Spice in Albuquerque and Justin Pioche from the Pioche Food Group from Upper Fruitland (Doolkai) on the Navajo Nation. New Mexico’s chefs compete in a category with Arizona, Nevada and Oklahoma. “This is always an exhilarating moment as we kick off the awards cycle and recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals and teams across the country,” James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach said in a statement. Last year, Sazón Chef Fernando Oleo won best chef in the Southwest category. Following yesterday’s semifinalist announcements, the foundation will reveal nominees on March 29 and winners on June 5.
Airbnb kicked off the new year by promoting some of its newest hosts, along with the most wish-listed homes on its new list of accommodations. “Stargazer” in El Prado, NM appears on that list of 14 newest and most popular abodes. “The Taos Skybox ‘Stargazer’ is a one bedroom/one bathroom modern, eco-conscious, sustainably built modular structure,” the listing reads. Set on 30 acres of private land, the home is described as “a unique vacation home experience, purpose-built to take advantage of the dark skies and endless vistas of the high desert landscape.” One bedroom, two beds and one bath at $129 per night, last we checked. As for the more luxury-minded traveler, Luxury Travel Advisor features a printed roundtable discussion with luxury travel experts. In response to the question: “Is there a destination that you think is underrated and should get more attention?” in the coming year, Auberge Resorts Collection Global Sales Director Sam McDiarmid says: “New Mexico is one. You can go in August and it’s 80 degrees when it’s 100 degrees everywhere else and you can escape the humidity. Plus, the sheer number of incredible national parks in that region, you see some really phenomenal sites.” Given the steady flow of press Auberge’s Santa Fe property, Bishop’s Lodge, receives, “underrated” seems like a stretch, but FWIW, Bishop’s Lodge does offer discounts to New Mexico residents (but still costs more than the Stargazer).
The National Weather Service forecasts a slight chance for flurries before 8 am. Otherwise, today will be sunny, with a high temperature near 29 degrees and wind chill values as low as -2. North wind at 10 mph will become northwest in the afternoon. Temperatures should start warming up through Monday before decreasing again.
Thanks for reading! The Word just stumbled upon the recently announced winners of the 2022 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest and now she can’t stop looking at them (the Atlantic magazine offers even better full-screen viewing of the images).