Santa Fe mayor unveils new plans during annual address
Amid a series of controversies, including chronic late audits and unresolved tension over the fate of the Plaza obelisk, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber last night delivered his first in-person State of the City since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking for just over half an hour at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center to a limited audience, Webber acknowledged both issues, but largely focused on three new initiatives he intends to shepherd through in his second term: raising the citywide living wage; protecting the Hopewell Mann area from gentrification as the Midtown Campus develops; and working more collaboratively with other Northern New Mexico communities on drugs and mental health. “This is how we took on COVID,” Webber said regarding the latter goal. “We pooled our resources. We joined forces to shelter and fed those in need. We erased old boundaries and drew a circle of inclusion that brought everyone together. It’s time once again to join hands and join forces to save lives, house the homeless, treat the addicted and minister to the emotionally troubled.” A recent Los Angeles Times story focuses on the devastating impact fentanyl has had on Española, and the valley’s growing homeless population. As for the other goals, Webber did not specify targets for raising the living wage, but said as the city enters a new fiscal year “we’ll begin another conversation and involve every part of our community.” The mayor called for “policies, programs, tools and investments” to ensure the Hopewell Mann area “can both feel secure and also reap the benefits” as the Midtown project moves forward.
Automatic Medicaid coverage ends today
With more than 50% of New Mexicans receiving benefits through the Human Services Department, the end of continuous Medicaid coverage means close to 1 million residents will need to renew their coverage when their applications come due. The continuous enrollment, which Congress put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, ends today. In addition, the state anticipates approximately 110,000 New Mexicans will no longer qualify for Medicaid. In a news conference yesterday, HSD provided an overview of its efforts to prevent a lapse in benefits, which include a statewide “Renew NM” campaign for the next year. HSD has already begun sending renewal packets in turquoise envelopes to customers whose renewal applications are due in April. “It is essential that Medicaid customers provide their most up-to-date contact information to HSD and look for the turquoise envelope from our department regarding the renewal application and respond accordingly,” Acting HSD Secretary Kari Armijo said in a statement. “We are making every effort to ensure HSD customers renew their benefits to continue receiving Medicaid coverage, if they are eligible, or help them stay connected to healthcare coverage if they no longer qualify for Medicaid.” Bruce Gilbert, CEO for beWellnm, the state’s health insurance marketplace, said some New Mexicans who are no longer eligible for Medicaid “may qualify to have their first month’s premium paid by us. That means they would owe nothing for the first month—residents should act quickly though to ensure there is not a gap in their coverage.” Residents can contact HSD by phone weekdays 7 am to 6:30 pm at 1-800-283-4465.
Courts end COVID-19 mask, distancing requirements
New Mexico’s public health emergency, enacted in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, comes to an end today. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced at the start of the month her intention to let the order expire, an action new Health Secretary Patrick Allen tells SFR he recommended. In recognition of that changing status, the state Supreme Court announced yesterday that after today “masks and physical distancing will no longer be required” (although they will be available). In addition, jurors will no longer need to answer health screening questions to enter a courthouse. “As we move forward and resume normal operations, courts can fully use all available space in courtrooms and jury assembly areas to conduct more trials and hearings,” Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon said in a statement. Courts will, however, continue to conduct many proceedings remotely “Courts learned to use digital tools to operate more efficiently and improve access to justice, Justice David K. Thomson, who leads the Supreme Court’s Emergency Response Team for pandemic-related matters, said in a statement. “That remains one of the helpful lessons for courts brought on by the pandemic.” Also: The state health department is hosting a vaccine event from 8 am to 12:30 pm tomorrow, April 1, at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, for anyone who is not fully vaccinated. Anyone who has had an updated Omicron booster is considered fully vaccinated and is not eligible for vaccination. The DOH hotline, 855-600-3453, can confirm vaccination status and schedule/cancel appointments.
Gov signs NM Voting Rights Act into law
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday enacted House Bill 4, the New Mexico Voting Rights Act, into law. The bill’s provisions include: the Native American Voting Rights Act; creation of a voluntary permanent absentee voter list; automatic voter registration at various locales; mandated same-day voter registration at all polling places; and at least two monitored secured ballot drop boxes per county. “Today, New Mexico is leading the nation by example, declaring that we believe, unequivocally, in the fundamental right of every American to choose those who represent them,” the governor said in a statement. “The provisions of this bill related to Native Americans in particular are the first in the nation, making sure that the rights of citizens of those sovereign nations are also protected.” The governor also signed Senate Bill 180, which increases compensation and training for election workers, and Senate Bill 43, which makes intimidating election officials a fourth-degree felony. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who championed the bill and recently testified to the US Senate Rules Committee regarding New Mexico’s electoral reforms, lauded the enactment of the new laws, noting: “These bills represent dedicated, years-long work from tribal leaders and community members, legislators, my staff, and election administrators across the state. Federal voting rights bills are stuck in Congress while voting access is under attack in many states across the nation. But not here in New Mexico.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported March 30: New cases: 238; 674,911 total cases. Deaths: nine; Santa Fe County has had 401 total deaths; 9,115 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 86; patients on ventilators: seven
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent March 30 “community levels” map shows improvement for New Mexico, with just two counties—Cibola and McKinley—yellow with medium levels, down from four last week, none red and the rest of the 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 Santa Fe-based Holt/Smithson Foundation—which “exists to continue the creative and investigative spirit” of the artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson—presents the second of its 10-year series of annual lectures tomorrow, April 1, featuring keynote speaker author Rebecca Solnit, who will deliver a talk titled “Everything Is Connected: Nancy Holt in the Landscape of Ideas.” The event also will include a presentation from DesertArtLAB and a discussion between Solnit; writer and activist Lucy Lippard; and Holt/Smithson Foundation Executive Director Lisa Le Feuvre. The free event, being held at the St. Francis Auditorium at New Mexico Museum of Art, has sold out, but the morning session will livestream here and the afternoon session will livestream here.
Simpson on Simpson
More national attention for sculptor Rose B. Simpson (Pueblo of Santa Clara), in a feature from Harpers Bazaar, in which the artist talks about her solo show, Road Less Traveled, on display through April 8 at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. In an “as-told-to” story, Simpson describes growing up on the pueblo, but spending weekends in Santa Fe with her non-Native father, also a sculptor, as is Simpson’s mother, Roxanne Swentzell. Watching her mother sell her pieces at Santa Fe Indian Market “created a neural pathway” in Simpson’s head, she says, “that you can support your family off your art, like everybody does here,” although she initially resisted working in clay herself. Becoming a mother six years ago, she says, “changed my practice profoundly. After I gave birth, my pieces became softer and more feminine; I found power in bringing a life into the world. The patience and dedication necessary of a mother showed me what power, strength, fortitude, and grace really look like.” Simpson also details the ideas and processes around some of the pieces in her current show, such as “Release.” The sculpture, she says, is the tallest work in the exhibition. “It was initially going to be three and a half or four feet, but when I started building it, it ended up getting taller and taller and taller. The idea behind it is about releasing all the thoughts and judgments we hold and allowing something new in.”
Feel the love
The writers at The Travel continue their New Mexico lovefest, rounding up the 10 best spots in the state from “desert landscapes to cultural gems.” In an example of the latter (possibly), Albuquerque comes in at #1 as the venue for the International Balloon Fiesta. In addition, The Travel writes, a “late-afternoon trip up the Sandia Peak Tramway is the ideal way to experience the world-famous sunset, while ancient stores allow for souvenir shopping and hiking to majestic peaks that offer incredible scenery.” No examples of “ancient” stores provided. The Santa Fe Plaza ranks third, as a “bustling” historic landmark, and is the “the place to go for a leisurely walk, to relax with a drink, or simply stroll around to see what’s happening” (please note that drinking booze and “relaxing” on the Plaza might land you in the clink). Los Alamos makes a #10 appearance for its various scientific institutions, such as the Bradbury Science Museum, and proximity to the natural environment, such as the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Both Los Alamos and White Rock also appear on The Travel’s top 10 list of the most livable cities in the US, #2 and #8, respectively. For a colorful and on point recap of a New Mexico vacation, be sure to check out Nitya Chambers’ “Postcard from New Mexico,” for Lonely Planet.
Out like a confused lion
The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance of snow showers very early today. Otherwise, it should be sunny, with a high temperature near 50 degrees and breezy, with a west wind 15 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 25 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 35 mph. Look for warmer temperatures in the 60s this weekend, sunny days and less wind—and enjoy it while it lasts: Temperatures are likely to drop again next week.
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