Tonight: City Council to nix proposal to rebuild obelisk
Following last week’s negative response to a proposal that would have redesigned and rebuilt the controversial Plaza Soldier’s Monument/obelisk—toppled and partially destroyed by protesters on Indigenous Peoples Day in 2020—the City Council tonight will scratch that idea. At a special 7 pm meeting, with only one agenda item, the resolution’s sponsors, Councilors Carol Romero-Wirth, Renee Villarreal, Chris Rivera and Amanda Chavez, intend to withdraw their CHART Next-Steps resolution and will introduce at a later date a redrafted resolution to create and provide direction for an Office of Equity and Inclusion. “We’ve heard from a lot of people formally and informally and I think there’s just a general feeling it would be a good move to step back and let the temperature drop a bit and ruminate on what’s been said and maybe with time, a path forward will present itself,” Carol Romero-Wirth tells SFR. As for the monument, next steps remain unclear. Following its destruction, the city created a public engagement process, which culminated in a report last summer documenting—among myriad other topics—the ongoing community schism surrounding the monument. The report also called for the city to work towards a resolution; how or if that will happen has not been decided, but Rivera, at least, tells SFR he’s “not interested in spending another $250,000 to do another lengthy process.”
Rust special prosecutor withdraws from case
State Rep. Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, has stepped down as a special prosecutor in the Rust case. First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies appointed Reeb to the case last August, following Reeb’s March 2021 retirement as DA for the state’s Ninth Judicial District, but during her legislative campaign. Lawyers for Rust actor/producer Alec Baldwin argued in a motion filed last month that Reeb’s status as a state lawmaker makes her ineligible to prosecute the case under the state constitution. The DA’s office has charged both Baldwin and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the Oct. 21, 2021 shooting death on set of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins; and have a pending plea agreement for negligent use of a firearm with Assistant Director David Halls. In a statement from Reeb supplied yesterday by Carmack-Altwies’ office, Reeb says she made the decision to step down as special prosecution “after much reflection,” adding: “My priority in this case—and in every case I’ve prosecuted in my 25-year career—has been justice for the victim. However, it has become clear that the best way I can ensure justice is served in this case is to step down so that the prosecution can focus on the evidence and the facts, which clearly show a complete disregard for basic safety protocols led to the death of Halyna Hutchins. I will not allow questions about my serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand.” A hearing on the motion to disqualify Reeb had been scheduled for March 27.
Gov signs gun storage bill
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday signed House Bill 9, also known as “Bennie’s Bill,” which creates criminal penalties in some cases for negligently storing firearms in such a way as to make them accessible to children. The bill’s name honors Albuquerque middle school student Bennie Hargrove, who was fatally shot in 2021 by a classmate using his father’s improperly stored gun. “Today, New Mexico is making it clear that responsible gun ownership is the law of the land,” the governor said in a statement. “This bill is about keeping New Mexicans safe by requiring gun owners to take reasonable steps to secure their weapons—plain and simple.” Hargrove’s family joined Lujan Grisham for the signing. “I am so proud and grateful that New Mexico is passing this bill in Bennie’s name. It means a lot to our family. This bill’s purpose follows Bennie’s spirit in trying to protect young children and to save lives,” Bennie Hargrove’s grandmother Vanessa Sawyer said in a statement. Bill sponsor state Rep. Pamelya Herndon, D-Albuquerque, in a prepared statement said: “No family should have to go through what Bennie Hargrove’s family experienced. This bill is about taking commonsense steps to protect our kids from gun violence and tragic accidents. I am so grateful to the survivors who have championed this bill and to everyone who helped honor Bennie’s legacy by getting this bill across the finish line.” Several other gun-related bills—including one creating 14-day waiting periods to buy firearms and one banning guns from polling places—face “long odds,” of passing, the Albuquerque Journal reports, before the Legislature adjourns at noon on Saturday.
Heinrich co-sponsors bill to repeal regulator rollbacks for banks
US Sen. Martin Heinrich-D-NM, joined other dozens of other federal lawmakers yesterday in co-sponsoring legislation that would repeal Title IV of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018. US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, and other Democrats say that bill contributed to the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank by rolling back regulatory oversight of banks put in place after the 2008 financial crisis, aka the Dodd-Frank Act. Heinrich, who is chair-designate of the Joint Economic Committee, noted in a statement yesterday that he had “warned Congress in 2018 that President Trump’s regulatory rollback would put the health of the banking system at risk, and now here we are. While I’m glad the Biden administration and regulators acted quickly to ensure small businesses and depositors didn’t take the brunt of this failure, this disaster could have been prevented. That’s why I’m joining Senator Warren and our colleagues to introduce legislation to restore important guardrails and strengthen our banking system.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported March 14: New cases: 137; 671,657 total cases. Deaths: 0; Santa Fe County has had 402 total deaths; 9,071 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 88. Patients on ventilators: six
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent March 9 “community levels” map shows the entire state with green—aka 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.
The third episode of SFR’s new Leaf Brief podcast delves into navigating as a parent New Mexico’s nascent recreational cannabis landscape. Host Andy Lyman notes: “Lots of us with youngins already know that maiden voyage to snag some legal buds is only the beginning of navigating the post-legalization world as a parent.” Lyman talks with The Weed Blog owner Leah Maurer about the various options parents can take, and checks in with New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program Director Dr. Dominick Zurlo for his perspective as well.
On the fly
The Guardian includes Albuquerque in its list of five US cities deserving of direct flights to the United Kingdom. For one thing, such a route would “usefully fill a gap in the southwestern US between Phoenix and Dallas.” Moreover, the Guardian writes, “it would also provide access to a state that has much to offer in terms of history and culture, both Native American and Hispanic.” For instance, Santa Fe, is “a centre for counter-culture,” whereas Roswell is a fun spot to explore the history of aliens. Some Breaking Bad fans might even just want to visit Albuquerque “to explore the locations in and around” the city. Cheerio to that. Whether a direct flight between the UK and Albuquerque is in the offing remains to be seen, but the International Sunport is due for new service this fall between Albuquerque and Long Beach, California and additional flights to Baltimore through Southwest Airlines.
The Santa Fe Regional Airport also will pick up additional flights this spring, to both Dallas and Denver, as reported last month by the Santa Fe New Mexican, who heard the news from Stuart C. Kirk, executive director of the Northern New Mexico Air Alliance. Kirk tells SFR he determines the addition of flights through the airport by conducting searches for flights at future dates and “all of a sudden, there will be more.” As for his organization’s work in promoting the airport, Kirk said the group is waiting until construction at the airport is complete as “it’s not quite the right time to increase traffic...but as the airport nears completion, we’ll be sure all the airlines...are aware that we’ve increased the size of the terminal and improved the parking so that we’ll be on their radar when they’re doing their routes.” The city broke ground on phase 1 of construction at the airport a year ago and was theoretically supposed to complete that work in January. SFR attempted to ascertain the status of the construction from the city, but failed to receive a response. Undaunted, The Word took a drive to the airport yesterday thinking perhaps she could ascertain the status of the construction with her eyeballs. She could not, other than to see that it appeared even more under construction than it had two months ago. She tracked down Project Manager James Garduño, who said he had just attended a meeting in which it was made clear the project’s completion now will not take place until late November or December due to “unforeseen circumstances,” primarily having to do with conditions under the ground (sewer lines, grading) not necessarily the plans as written. Fear not, Santa Fe airport flyers: Garduño says some improvements have been made in response to complaints about the interim parking lot (which was unmarked and unlit the last time this flyer arrived). Lights have been installed and security has been hired to help people navigate the site, Garduño says.
A few good entrepreneurs
Applications are now open for a year-long acceleration program for local startups through the UNM Anderson Center for Responsible Entrepreneurship in Santa Fe, which will be facilitated by a mix of UNM Anderson faculty and Santa Fe entrepreneurs. The program is hosting two information sessions, virtually on March 16 and in-person at the Santa Fe Business Incubator on March 21; program organizers plan to accept up to eight local entrepreneurs into the program. The application form, which includes the proposed “social and/or environmental impact” of the start-up is available here. The center launched last summer through a partnership with the City of Santa Fe, with support from Santa Fe Innovates. “The people that should come out and learn more about the program are the ones who have done some early legwork to define that problem/solution fit for their venture and now they’re trying to actually turn it into a growing business,” Santa Fe Innovates founder Jon Mertz tells SFR. Santa Fe Innovates, UNM Anderson Center for Responsible Entrepreneurship, the City of Santa Fe and Creative Santa Fe also have teamed up for a “Beyond Profit” series, the next installment of which will be focused on impact investing in New Mexico, and will take place from 5 to 7:30 pm, Thursday, April 13 at the New Mexico Higher Education Center (the event is free, but registration is required to reserve seats).
Weather the storm
The National Weather Service forecasts a partly sunny day with a high temperature near 56 degrees and west wind 10 to 20 pm. We have a 40% chance for scattered showers after 3 pm and an 80% chance for more rain tonight before midnight, leading into a temperature drop back into the 40s tomorrow, with varying chances for more rain and snow through the weekend.
Thanks for reading! The Word never knew astronomers helped date Ansel Adams’ famous 1941 photograph “Moonrise Over Hernandez, New Mexico.”