State workers return to office, plan rally
Today marks the day for all state employees to return to the office. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration first announced in late November it wanted remote employees back in the office come the new year. Following pushback from labor unions, the state Personnel Office said non-supervisory employees would not be required back in the office until Feb. 2. State employees with CWA Local 7076, which represents workers in 13 executive branch agencies, have planned a rally and news conference today, regarding that return-to-office mandate, “logistical and safety issues” arising as a result; the union’s legislative agenda and “the state of state government.” That event takes place from 11:30 am to 1 pm at the west concourse of the Roundhouse. As SFR reported recently, the return-to-office mandate from Lujan Grisham’s administrative comes as other state governments have embraced telework to cut costs, improve efficiency and induce recruits amid a tight labor market. The Albuquerque Journal reports some state employees say they plan to leave their jobs in response to the requirement. According to that story, the state had a 24.3% vacancy rate for rank-and-file positions across agencies as of September; and only 61% or so of new hires last their first year during the 2022 budget year. In addition, the Legislative Finance Committee released a report in November that found the state is wasting millions of dollars on largely unused offices.
Council postpones South Meadows
In the interest of time, the Santa Fe City Council voted unanimously late last night to delay a vote on Homewise’s proposed controversial Southside development, noting the possibility that the discussion and questions could last well into the early morning hours. “There’s a lot of material that I feel we need to go over carefully, and give respect to, and give proper time to,” Mayor Alan Webber said. “I think we’ll be calling residents who testified back if they’re available.” City Manager John Blair said there will be enough time at the council’s next meeting—currently scheduled for Feb. 8— to discuss the re-zoning proposal. The decision to delay followed close to two hours of comments evenly split regarding homebuilder Homewise’s plan to move forward with 161 units of affordable housing and more on a 22-acre parcel of land that was previously slated to be part of Santa Fe County’s open space program. Critics of the plan cited the land’s ecology; the process Homewise used to acquire the land; and the nearby old Eberline site’s potential leftover radioactive material as reasons to reject the plan. Homewise’s advocates cited the need for affordable housing. The Santa Fe City Planning Commission in November voted unanimously, after hearing hours of arguments both for and against the tract of houses, to recommend the governing body approve the zoning, after continuously rescheduling it multiple times. The planning commission also meets at 6 pm this evening and has on its agenda consideration of another proposal from Homewise for a mixed-use development with 60 dwelling units and approximately 13,400 square feet of commercial space on Rufina Street.
Court sets first Rust case dates
The New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts announced yesterday the first court appearances for defendants in the Rust movie case have been scheduled for Feb. 24. Actor and producer Alec Baldwin’s appearance is set for 10 am, followed by Hannah Gutierrez, who served as Rust’s armorer, at 10:15 am in First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer’s court. According to a news release, the appearances will be conducted remotely through an online platform. In addition, a plea conference has been set for 10 am, March 8, also in Sommer’s court, for Dave Halls, the movie’s assistant director, which is scheduled to be conducted in person at the courthouse. First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies charged Baldwin and Gutierrez on Tuesday with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter; Halls’ plea agreement is for negligent use of a deadly weapon charges. Documents for all three cases can be viewed here. Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb say all three played roles in the deadly Oct. 21, 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. “What I want known out of this case is that I went after justice for Halyna Hutchins,” Carmack-Altwies told SFR earlier this week, “and I treated everyone the same under the law.”
Daily paper announces new leadership
The Santa Fe New Mexican announced yesterday its publisher, 67-year-old Tom Cross, is retiring. Incoming publisher Patrick Dorsey, 54, will take over in late March; Cross will stay at the paper until the fall. Cross, the New Mexican reports, has been publisher since 2014, after starting as the newspaper’s comptroller in 2012. “It’s been a great run,” he told staff yesterday at a meeting at the paper’s downtown offices. Robin Martin, the paper’s owner, credited Cross with helping the newspaper weather the recession and COVID-19 pandemic. Opinion writer Inez Russell Gomez highlighted Cross’ “ability to keep things running in the midst of chaos.” Incoming publisher Dorsey served most recently as publisher for the Austin American-Statesman, where he was hired in 2018.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Feb. 1: New cases: 194; 665,048 total cases. Deaths: five; Santa Fe County has had 392 total deaths; 8,958 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 87. Patients on ventilators: four
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Jan. 26 “community levels” map shows four county categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19, compared with one last week: De Baca, Curry, Quay and Roosevelt counties. 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.
Several bills related to election safety in New Mexico are winding their ways through the state legislative process. Senate Bill 43, sponsored by Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, aims to protect election officials and voters from intimidation. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on Monday, after hearing testimony from various officials, including Santa Fe County Clerk Katharine Clark. The bill now heads to Senate Finance. Senate Bill 44, sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, prohibits carrying firearms within 100 feet of a polling place during an election. No such prohibitions exist at present. It passed the Senate Rules Committee yesterday and is now headed to Senate Judiciary. Want to talk elections? Listen in at 8 am today to KUNM’s Let’s Talk New Mexico program, hosted this week by SFR staff writer Andrew Oxford, during which guests will discuss various initiatives—such as the Voting Rights Act—geared at improving elections. Guests include Duhigg, Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda López Askin and FairVote research and data analyst Rachel Hutchinson. Email email@example.com with thoughts or call in to 505-277-5866.
Sojourn to remember
Tribune News Service syndicated writer Patti Nickell pens a long, glowing alliteratively titled story about Santa Fe’s food scene, “A Sumptuous Sojourn in Santa Fe,” which we encountered in Stars and Stripes newspaper. Santa Fe, Nickell writes, “joins New Orleans, New England and the Low Country of South Carolina as being among the few places in the United States where one can find authentic regional cuisine.” That authentic cuisine, of course, is neither Tex nor Mex, but the city’s “staggering” number of restaurants (she says it’s more than 400, which is probably correct, but begs the question of why we tend to eat at the same five places) “takes your breath away.” Nickell has visited before and dined on dishes at Coyote Cafe, Geronimo and Maria’s. This trip, she drops in for the first time to Opuntia, which “proved the perfect spot for a bountiful brunch.” Specifically, she had huevos rancheros and a red chile mocha. But that’s not all: Nickell visits and has recommendations for lunch at Rancho de Chimayó and dinner at SkyFire, the restaurant at Bishop’s Lodge, an experience that prompts Nickell to share some history on Archbishop Lamy and wax poetic: “Wangling a table by the giant windows, I was rewarded with a not-soon-forgotten sunset. I wasn’t sure if it was my two mezcal cocktails, enhanced by the earthy scent of peppers charring on the wood-fired grill, or just the special quality of the New Mexican skies that made the sunset over the Sangre de Cristos appear a shimmering palette of colors starting with tangerine and ending with deep indigo.”
Stay a while
Back in November, online travel magazine Travel Lemming included two New Mexico locales—Taos and Chaco Canyon—on its list of the 50 best places to visit in 2023 (#36 and #41, respectively). Yesterday, it published a guide on the best places to stay in Santa Fe, in which it decrees La Fonda the best overall hotel; Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi the best luxury hotel; La Posada the best for families; and El Rey the “best boutique.” El Rey also received props recently via MICHELIN Guide Hotels International Director Lucy Lieberman’s “top hotels of 2023″ recommendations, in which she described El Rey as a “very hip, very contemporary mix of local Southwestern color and modern art and design.” Back to Travel Lemming: In addition to providing hotel suggestions, the guide also attempts to navigate Santa Fe’s neighborhoods depending on one’s proclivities—such as proximity to restaurants, galleries, nature etc—with maps, tips for restaurants and top sites. We say “attempt” because describing Santa Fe’s east side as a suburb seems ridiculous and marking Santa Fe High School’s Ivan Head stadium as a top attraction in Midtown Santa Fe is a real head scratcher. Pickiness aside, the guide is extensive enough it could come in handy to send to potential visitors when you don’t feel like answering a million questions.
Cold hands, warm heart
The National Weather Service forecasts sunny skies today with a high temperature near 41 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Still looking like a warmer weekend ahead, although colder temps and precipitation could return next week.
Thanks for reading! The Word wonders if Joan Didion fans will swarm as eagerly to buy her apartment as they did her sunglasses.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this newsletter mis-reported the day of the state employees’ rally as Friday, Feb. 3, based on inaccurate information in a news release.