Sen. Heinrich rebukes NM Gov vetoes
Count US Sen. Martin Heinrich among the critics responding to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s vetoes on Friday—her deadline to act on legislation from the last session. The governor vetoed a variety of bills, including ones related to tax reform and climate change. In turn, in a series of unusually reproachful tweets, Heinrich wrote: “New Mexico’s state legislature took bold action to deliver for our state. I am disappointed to see many of those efforts now vetoed.” While the governor signed into law tax rebates ($500 for individuals/$1,000 for married couples filing jointly); an expanded child tax credit; and expansions of the gross receipts tax deduction for health care practitioners and film tax credit program, she also vetoed numerous provisions in this year’s tax-reform package, including: a 20% alcohol tax increase and electric vehicle tax credits.
The latter, along with the governor’s veto on other climate-change and environment-related bills, also drew criticism from the Sierra Club Rio Grande chapter. “The five credits for electric vehicles, energy storage and geothermal development would have made some progress in preventing climate disaster, as would the geothermal center of excellence and fund, which could also be a significant economic-development tool for New Mexico,” Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman said in a statement. “We are facing a climate emergency that requires emergency action, not vetoes…Vetoing the only progress we made in this session is turning us around and moving us in the wrong direction.” Lujan Grisham also vetoed salary increases for New Mexico judges, drawing criticism from Common Cause New Mexico. “We need our judges to be the best and the brightest—thoughtful, intelligent and faithful to the rule of law,” Common Cause Policy Director Mason Graham said in a statement. “We also need a diversity of experiences and backgrounds to ensure fair and balanced courts. Right now, the salary is not attractive to many lawyers, especially those in civil practice.” The governor on Friday signed off on the state’s $9.6 billion budget, the Albuquerque Journal reports, but vetoed about $21 million of the spending plan.
Webber unveils flat, “just” 2024 budget
Speaking of budgets, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber late last week revealed his proposed $403 million budget for the coming fiscal year, which he described in his pre-budget letter as an essentially “flat” spending plan that is both “sound” and “strong.” Highlights include staff raises; money for affordable housing; road and park improvements; and bolstering city reserves. “Our intent was to be fiscally responsible right now and do some increases for projects we absolutely have to get done,” Webber told reporters in a briefing. In his letter, Webber outlines two major focuses for the budget. The first, “sustaining innovation,” he writes, refers to “policy innovations” such as the city’s participation in the national coalition to end chronic and veteran homelessness known as “Built for Zero.” Secondly, he writes, the budget introduces “our commitment to a “just Santa Fe,” with priorities reflecting the community’s “long-standing” commitment to justice. “We take seriously the admonition to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’” Webber writes. “This budget takes that spirit, and uses it to guide the way we support and advance the practice of justice in Santa Fe.” The mayor’s fiscal proposals precede a round of hearings. The City Council’s Finance Committee will hold nine meetings on the budget starting at 1 pm on April 11. The committee is expected to vote on a budget April 27. The mayor and full council weigh in on May 10. The current fiscal year ends in June.
Court suspends Judge Khalsa
And speaking of judicial salaries, on Friday, the state Supreme Court issued an order suspending Santa Fe Magistrate Judge Dev Atma Khalsa without pay. As SFR staff writer Andy Lyman reports, the order marks the first time disciplinary action against the judge has been made public following his arrest on drunk driving charges in late February. Court officials had said Khalsa was removed from the bench and ordered not to appear at the courthouse on Feb. 27, a day after his arrest, but because Judicial Standards Commission proceedings are confidential pending Supreme Court action, confirmation of pending disciplinary action and details including his pay status were kept sealed. The court’s order of suspension also unsealed records related to Khalsa’s disciplinary records. The records show the Supreme Court initially suspended Khalsa with pay the day after he was arrested for drinking and driving, which lawyers for Khalsa argued should have been sufficient consequence pending the outcome of the criminal case.
CCA says farewell
Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Arts has had plenty of highs and lows since its inception in 1979. Before last week, one might have argued the seminal low point came in the mid-1990s when, as SFR reported at the time, the original founders were fired and locked out of their offices; staff were laid off; programs were cancelled; funding dried up; and the board of directors resigned. But the arthouse cinema/performance and gallery space found a way to move forward back then—until last week when, citing the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CCA announced its permanent closure, effective April 6. “Closing a cherished, community organization like CCA is one of the most difficult decisions a board can make,” CCA Board Chairman David Muck said in a statement. “However, we simply couldn’t secure the level of individual donations required to achieve the high quality of programming and exhibitions envisioned by CCA’s professional staff and board of directors.” CCA Executive Director and Head Curator Danyelle Means (Oglala Lakota), whose 2022 exhibition Self-Determined Hyperallergic magazine called one of the top 50 exhibitions of 2022, described the decision as a tough one that was not made lightly. “For a nonprofit institution that operates independently of state support, the annual donations needed to sustainably continue operating was not enough, especially in the wake of challenges from pandemic closures and reduced attendance,” Means said. One artist who had work in the Self-Determined exhibition describes the CCA’s closure as “devastating” for Santa Fe. “They were absolutely wonderful to work with,” Artist Ian Kuali’i (Native Hawaiian and Apache) tells SFR. “I’ve rarely run into that—there are very few cases where curators or directors haven’t stated their input; how they see my vision or other creatives’ vision in their space. It was different at CCA. It actually felt like community, like they actually cared about the voice of the people who came into the space.” A message on Facebook circulating yesterday indicated the CCA board would be willing to reconsider its decision pending financial pledges from the community, but SFR was unable to determine the legitimacy of this post, given that it was read in the middle of the night.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported April 7: New cases: 209; 676,378 total cases. Deaths: 10; Santa Fe County has had 402 total deaths; 9,146 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 93; patients on ventilators: eight
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent April 6 “community levels” map shows improvement for New Mexico, with just one county—Union—yellow with medium levels, down from two the prior 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.
Last week, the New Mexico Music Awards announced its 2023 finalists (winners will be revealed at a May 7 ceremony at Sandia Resort and Casino). According to the organization, it had more than 700 entries in 40 categories from across the state. Lots of great music from Santa Fe is in the running for a slew of awards. For now, we’ll shout out Jono Manson, who has 19 nominations—in some cases as a producer at his Kitchen Sink studio; in some cases as both producer and performer—including one for “No New Kind of Blue” (video directed by Andrew Primm) in the Americana category, a song featuring Blues Traveler frontman John Popper and a track from Manson’s recently just-released album, Stars Enough to Guide Me, which he launched with live performances last weekend. Here’s SFR’s recent interview with Manson about his latest output.
Todo los días in NM
Spanish spoken every day in villages across New Mexico doesn’t sound exactly like Spanish spoken elsewhere. Rather, the unique mix of words, pronunciation and construction reflect a dialect specific to the area—and imperiled by multiple factors, ranging from the loss of Spanish-language newspapers to the loss of village populations due to economic forces and climate change. New York Times Southwest correspondent Simon Romero, a Ribera native, digs down into the history of New Mexico Spanish, its provenance and specific etymologies, while also talking to both the people who study it, and the folks who speak it. He grew up speaking a bit of it, Romero writes: “Some of my earliest memories involve listening to my grandmother as she chatted in the dialect while flipping tortillas with her fingers on a wood stove.” His grandmother was born in New Mexico, he notes, and spent most of her life here, but nonetheless spoke little English. “She is gone now, and with her and those of her generation, the region is losing a linguistic treasure trove harkening back centuries.” Still, some believe New Mexico Spanish will endure even in the face of myriad challenges. “The language absolutely will survive,” linguist and columnist Larry Torres tells the Times. “It may not be the same language that our ancestors recognized, but we’re using a form of 15th century Spanish with 21st century English.” The Times’ version of the story linked in this brief (versus reprints elsewhere) also includes wonderful photos from Northern New Mexico—both historic and contemporary ones by Desiree Rios—and audio snippets comparing certain words in English, Spanish and New Mexico Spanish. The story is part of the Times’ “Across the Country” series (and many of the close to 200 comments the story has thus far generated come from New Mexico).
Go big NM
Santa Fe’s The Inn of Five Graces “is a lesson in maximalism.” So says Forbes magazine, which posits that the minimalist aesthetic so popular during the shut-down era of the pandemic has now swung away from cold white walls to “color and comforting reminders” of other places people have visited. But The Inn of Five Graces, Forbes writes, was “showcasing what a penchant for excess can create” even before it became trendy to do so. That’s largely due, the magazine says, to hotel founder Ira Seret. “The Seret Aesthetic has always been maximalist, since its beginnings in the late 60s,” his wife Sylvia Seret tells Forbes. Seret’s time in Central Asia and other places around the globe sourcing textiles influences the look and approach of the hotel, she says. “Guests or strangers welcomed into a home may be offered gifts that delight the senses such as food (taste), comfort (touch), music (sound), pleasant surroundings (sight) and incense and flowers (smell).” In other maximalist New Mexico news, the Robb Report includes the state in its roundup of luxury ranch homes for sale in the American West. In this case, Youngsville, New Mexico, where the River Ranch, or Estancia Del Rio, is listed at $7.5 million and is set on 1,000 acres on land bordering the Carson National Forest/Chama River Canyon Wilderness area. The property includes a four-bedroom house by Santa Fe builder John Wolf, along with “spectacular standalone casitas that overlook the nearby hills and valleys of the Piedra Lumbre land grant.”
April is the cruelest month
The National Weather Service forecasts a warm start to the week with a sunny day, a high temperature near 72 degrees and north wind around 10 mph becoming south in the afternoon. Right now, forecasts show temps rising to the high 70s tomorrow through at least mid-week, when we might see some of that spring rain we keep hearing about.