Senate passes NM Voting Rights Act
House Bill 4, which contains several measures aimed at voting rights championed by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, passed the state Senate yesterday and heads to the House now for concurrence. The bill, which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also supports, includes the Native American Voting Rights Act, which eliminates existing structural voting barriers for tribes and pueblos; automatic voter registration; permanent optional absentee ballots; restored voting rights for formerly-incarcerated individuals; and enhanced voter registration systems and voter data privacy, among other provisions. “The New Mexico Voting Rights Act builds on our state’s already established position as a national voting rights leader by further improving both voter access and election integrity,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “As federal voting bills are stymied in Congress and voting rights come under attack across the nation, states like New Mexico must step up to protect these rights. The New Mexico Voting Rights Act balances the demands for voter access with the needs of maintaining our high levels of election security.” Toulouse Oliver also thanked the bill’s multiple sponsors, the public and county clerks from across the state for helping the bill—a version of which died in filibuster last year—pass. “Our democracy, our sacred right to vote, is under threat,” co-sponsor state Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, said in a statement following its passage. “It requires a strong, community driven response. This bill will bring us one step closer to making equal access to the ballot box a reality for every qualified New Mexican.”
Council postpones action on obelisk
Faced with mounting criticism over a plan to rebuild the controversial Plaza obelisk, the Santa Fe City Council last night deferred a vote on a resolution to proceed with the reconstruction, which would include four plaques providing additional context to the obelisk’s history. Originally unveiled in early February, the proposal from City Councilors Chris Rivera, Amanda Chavez, Carol Romero-Wirth and Renee Villarreal follows recommendations from the CHART report (Culture, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth), assembled in the aftermath of the 2020 destruction of the monument during Indigenous Peoples Day, and also would include the creation of an Office of Equity and Inclusion. CHART leaders, however, said last month they do not support the resolution. The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and the Santa Fe Indigenous Center also have opposed the councilors’ proposal. And, over two hours of testimony last night, local residents said the plan doesn’t include the perspectives of Indigenous people or follow through on the goals of the community engagement process the city launched after the monument protest. “I don’t know what else we have to do to be seen and heard,” Carrie Wood (Diné), a member of the board of the Santa Fe Indigenous Center, told councilors.
PRC may revisit PNM/Avangrid merger
The newly reformed Public Regulation Commission supports a motion filed yesterday by PNM Resources and Avangrid with the state Supreme Court to dismiss the two companies’ appeal of last year’s rejection of a proposed merger and send it back to the PRC. According to a news release, PNM and Avangrid are seeking a resolution no later than April 12, 2023, having previously entered into an amendment of their merger agreement that extended the end date to April 20, 2023 (the agreement can be extended 90 days by agreement from both companies). “It serves the public interest and conserves the resources of the court if this appeal is dismissed and the matter is remanded to the commission to allow the commission to promptly rehear and reconsider the (previous) commission order,” the joint motion states. In 2021 when the PRC was a five-person elected body, it rejected the merger. Newly appointed PRC Commissioner Pat O’Connell, the Albuquerque Journal notes, has recused himself from any proceedings on the case because he previously testified in its support on behalf of Western Resource Advocates. The Journal reports several organizations that previously supported the merger are likely to do so again. Its most vociferous opponent, New Energy Economy, intends to oppose the new motion, Executive Director Mariel Nanasi tells the Journal: “They don’t have the right to withdraw an appeal and just reconsider it. We need to ask what has changed—what new information or evidence has emerged to justify reconsidering the last commission’s decision?”
City announces “Pothole Palooza”
Get excited: It’s that time of year when the ground dries out enough for the city to attempt to fill the proliferation of potholes across town. Did the city call this event Pothole Palooza prior to the state legalizing cannabis? Not that we recall, but we do know Mayor Alan Webber has been known to tout the number of potholes filled in a given year. By any other name, the city does utilize late winter, particularly when it feels like early spring, to address the perennial problem. According to a city news release, two crews are working at least 10-hour shifts, four days a week to expedite pothole repair and have filled at least 1,000 potholes since starting last week. If you would like to know more about the types of materials used to repair the potholes, you’re in luck: Crews use “a ‘cold mix’ when the temperatures are low; and a more permanent ‘hot mix’ that is applied when temperatures are high enough for the hot mix plant to operate.” During Pothole Palooza, a night shift crew starts at midnight working on Priority 1 roads (ones with heavy traffic during the day and some Priority 2 roads. During the day, crews work on Priority 2 and residential roads where the traffic is lighter. Crews are both filling potholes on paved roads, while the street grading crew refurbishes washboard and potholed dirt roads. The city asks for folks to drive slowly if you need to pass crews while they’re working on the road. Report potholes here.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported March 8: New cases: 180; 670,688 total cases. Deaths: three; Santa Fe County has had 400 total deaths; 9,059 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 88. Patients on ventilators: nine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent March 2 “community levels” map shows one county, McKinley, has turned yellow, indicating medium levels; the rest of the state has green—low levels. 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.
Adaptive athlete Annijke Wade shares the story of her devastating 2021 mountain biking accident in Angel Fire for an episode of Outside Online’s The Daily Rally podcast. “I was mountain biking at my favorite downhill mountain biking resort, on my favorite trail with some wonderful people,” Wade says. “It was the first run of the day. And I hit a jump just a little bit wonky. I tried to dump as much speed as I could. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to, and ended up hitting the next feature. I could no longer feel anything below my chest, and no longer move anything below my chest. I knew at that point I was paralyzed.” Having spent the years prior to her accident engrained in the mountain biking community, Wade knew she wanted back on the trail and she talks about facing lifelong paralysis, full-time wheelchair use and her determination to get back outside.
US Interior Secretary and former New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) lands on Condé Nast Traveler’s “Women Who Travel Power List” for 2023 in celebration of International Women’s Day (yesterday). Haaland advises fellow travelers when “visiting another state, another county, another city, research that place. What tribes lived there prior to colonization? What tribes still live there?” Haaland, the country’s first Native American cabinet secretary, emphasizes to CN Traveler the sacred nature of many sites to Indigenous people, and also talks about her priority in ensuring expanded and equitable access to nature. Last summer, the Interior announced $192 million in funding for the National Park Service to create “new outdoor recreation spaces, reinvigorate existing parks and form connections between people and the outdoors in economically underserved communities.” Haaland, the magazine writes, “knows firsthand the power of the lands being open to all people” through personal experience: “I was so fortunate to take my mother to the Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico,” Haaland says. “We were able to push her wheelchair through that site because it was accessible. This country belongs to all of us.”
Hungering after Santa Fe
In a small but entertaining example of irony, a publication titled Relevant Magazine includes Santa Fe in its list of eight underrated destinations for spring break. Relevant recommends visiting some of the city’s “eccentric” locations, such as the “Lorenzo” Chapel (by “eccentric,” we assume they mean “religious” and, of course, it’s called the Loretto Chapel). Tasting Table also incorporates Santa Fe into its list of “culinary cities for tasty family vacations.” By way of explanation, Tasting Table writes: “Road trip fast-food and kid-centric dining will always have their rightful place in the Americana lexicon, but nowadays, foodies come from all backgrounds, generations, and ages—and kids no doubt appreciate a gourmet tater tot as much as their parents.” As for Santa Fe, we are “like a magical oasis,” “a haven of arts, culture, color and flavor” and “a foodie wonderland, offering a kaleidoscope of flavors, from blue corn and green chiles to frozen margaritas and burly breakfast burritos.” Specifically, Tasting Table recommends blue corn doughnuts from Whoo’s Donuts; the apple walnut strudel from Dolina Cafe & Bakery; breakfast burritos at Tia Sophia’s; and the s’mores at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe (presumably not all on the same day).
Cloud on the horizon
The National Weather Service forecasts a partly sunny day with a high temperature near 55 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph.
Thanks for reading! The Word is perusing Off Assignment’s new “Witching Hour” series, comprised of “ambient literary portraits and transportive illustrations pay homage to the singular alchemy between place and time.”