Morning Word

Complaint Takes Aim at CYFD Confidentiality Law

ESPN reports on more NMSU athletics problems

Complaint takes aim at CYFD confidentiality rules

A Bernalillo County lawyer who represents foster parents and relatives of abused children wants a federal court to intervene in New Mexico. According to a complaint filed in US District Court, which names Attorney General Raúl Torrez and 2nd Judicial District Attorney Sam Bregman, lawyer Harold Atencio currently represents the relative of an infant who is subject to an abuse and neglect proceeding and has information that the Children, Youth & Families Department “is acting in violation of statutes and regulations.” Atencio wants to publicly comment on CYFD’s “investigative techniques and actions” but “due to the threat of prosecution…is unable to do so.” The complaint specifically targets a section of state law governing confidentiality of records in neglect or abuse proceedings. Disclosure of such records under the state’s Abuse or Neglect Act constitutes a petty misdemeanor and can carry up to six months in jail, along with fines up to $500. The federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a similar law in Colorado, Atencio’s complaint says. The Albuquerque Journal reports legislation that would have required more disclosure from CYFD did not pass during the most recent Legislature. Meanwhile, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports today Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham does not intend to hold a special session regarding CYFD, for which the governor in February ordered an overhaul. Earlier this month, CYFD Secretary Barbara Vigil announced her departure from that role; the state is conducting a national search for her replacement.

Pueblos continue pursuit of Rio Grande water rights

The Rio Grande Compact Commission voted unanimously Friday to advance several pueblo governments’ request for more involvement, the Associated Press reports; the decision came during the commission’s annual meeting in Santa Fe. According to the AP, pueblo leaders have requested access to the commission for several years and maintain their water rights remained undetermined despite a nearly 100-year-old agreement with the US Interior Department an an irrigation district. Isleta Pueblo Gov. Max Zuni reported progress with the Interior Department determining those values in the wake of the creation of a federal team to assess the pueblos’ claims to the river, and asked for the commission to invite the pueblos to its next meeting. The commission in turn voted to “direct its legal and engineering advisers to look into developing protocols for formal discussions” with the six pueblos along the Rio Grande: Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Sandia and Isleta. The water, Zuni told the commission, has value beyond its agriculture use: “We use it for traditional purposes,” he said. “I don’t know how we could quantify that amount of water but carrying on our traditions and our customs, our water is very essential to us. It is important to us, our livelihood. That river is very sacred.”

NM unemployment continues to decline

New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined slightly in March compared to February: 3.5% versus 3.6%, both of which represented a drop from the 4.6% last year, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Workforce Solutions. The majority of the gains came from the private sector in the service-providing industries, according to the state. New Mexico’s unemployment rate last month was slightly higher than the national rate of 3.5%, although the state had the largest over-the-year decrease in unemployment rate in the US, according to the most recent US Bureau of Labor report. Nathan Friedman, an economist with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, tells KUNM New Mexico’s present decline reflects the state’s normal pattern of lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to economic recovery. “That seems to happen to us for most recessions,” he says. “We aren’t hit quite as hard as a lot of other states, but it takes us a little bit longer to get back on our feet.” Santa Fe County had an unemployment rate of 2.7% last month, down from 3.4% in February, according to state data.

ESPN reports more NMSU athletics’ problems

New Mexico State University’s woes among its athletic programs have not been confined to men’s basketball, according to a new report from ESPN. Last February, in a letter to the campus community, outgoing Chancellor Dan Arvizu canceled the season in response to what he described as reports of hazing on the team. Last week, two former New Mexico State University basketball players filed a lawsuit in Las Cruces district court against NMSU regents, former coaching staff and three teammates alleging sexual assault, among other crimes. Now, ESPN reports that documents it requested reveal an official for the women’s basketball team also was found to have sexually harassed a student in the past year, along with at least three more ongoing Title IX investigations of “three other complaints of sexual harassment or abuse stemming from reported incidents at the address for Pan American Center, which houses the basketball arena and athletic department offices.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported April 24: New cases: 370 (includes the weekend); 679,186 total cases. Deaths: three. Statewide fatalities: 9,178; Santa Fe County has had 407 total deaths; Statewide hospitalizations: 65; patients on ventilators: 10. The state health department will stop reporting daily COVID-19 cases on May 11.

The Centers for Disease and Prevention most recent April 20 “community levels” map shows all counties remain green, low levels, in New Mexico for the second week in a row.

Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via; 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.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

Singer/songwriter Esther Rose’s fourth album, Safe to Run, dropped last week and, on a first listen, has at least a few New Mexico references. Makes sense, as Rose partially recorded the album in the state and mastered it in Santa Fe. Speaking of which, Rose also lays out, in a recent Flood magazine story, her “perfect day” in Santa Fe, described as the New Orleans-based musician’s “adopted” hometown. A few of her favorite things: Tiger Barre class; a burrito from the OG Pantry; and a nightcap at La Reina, where Rose apparently moonlights when she’s not on the road.

For art’s sake

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Memory Map, continues to draw extensive coverage, including a recent feature story from the New York Times. A citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, Smith lives in Corrales, New Mexico and attended graduate school at the University of New Mexico in the 1970s—although “it took three applications until the school admitted her,” the story notes. At UNM, Smith met Indigenous artists Larry Emerson, Conrad House, Felice Lucero, Emmi Whitehorse and Paul Willeto and formed the Grey Canyon collective. “She’s like a mother hen,” Whitehorse (Diné), who was an undergraduate at the time, tells the Times. “She took it on herself to teach me the ropes.” Much of the work the 83-year-old has done over the decades “reflects her communal mind-set,” the Times writes, including projects that helped save Albuquerque’s Petroglyph National Monument. She has also organized more than 30 exhibitions that included Native American photographers and women artists. “When I come through the door, I bring a community with me,” she says. “I want there to be others after me.” The Times T Magazine includes another seminal New Mexico artist in its story on female artists and their protégées: Georgia O’Keeffe, linked in the story with Yayoi Kusama. “The two artists, born 42 years apart, met only once in person,” the story notes. “But as a young artist in Matsumoto, Kusama came across O’Keeffe’s work in a book and boldly wrote to ask her advice. Intrigued by the Japanese return address, O’Keeffe replied—and encouraged Kusama to move to New York and show her work to ‘anyone’ who might be interested. Over the years, the elder artist repeatedly invited Kusama to visit her in New Mexico. Kusama always declined.”

Vacation modes

Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away (May 14). According to Forbes magazine, Santa Fe would be an appealing place to spend the holiday for moms looking for wellness retreats. Specifically, Forbes recommends Ten Thousand Waves for the “Zen mom”; Ojo Spa Resorts for the “bath queen”; Bishop’s Lodge for the “nature mystic” (its Stream Dance Spa features a variety of treatments, including Shamanic healing, with special events on Mother’s Day weekend such as a “Life Cycles” workshop “for the soul”); and The Inn of the Five Graces for the mom who is a “design-aficionado” and whose “idea of a wellness retreat is getting immersed in artistry.” Santa Fe also lands on Good Housekeeping magazine’s list of “best solo travel destinations,” where its “art galleries, antique stores and craft shops” will keep art lovers busy and, of course, red and green chile tastes just as good when one is alone as when ensconced with other humans. The New York Times also recently included a solo traveler’s two cents on her trip to New Mexico in a story on the cost of traveling by oneself. Alison Heebsh, 49, St. Paul, Minn. included a few days in New Mexico in advance of volunteering with an organization that provides hospitality to asylum seekers in the US. Heebsh specifically visited the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and drove down through the Chihuahuan Desert (the trip also included time in El Paso, Texas). “The sunny skies of the New Mexico desert and mountains did not disappoint!” Heebsh says.

Rain check

The National Weather Service forecasts another potentially wet day, with a 50% chance for precipitation via scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon. Otherwise, it should be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 64 degrees and south wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west 15 to 25 mph in the afternoon; winds could also gust as high as 35 mph. Chances for precipitation drop to 30% tonight, with scattered rain showers before midnight and a slight chance for flurries after 3 am; a low temperature of 32 degrees; and the possibility of thunder.

Thanks for reading! The Word plans to celebrate National Library Week by beginning to read all 13 of the top books that faced censorship challenges last year, as reported yesterday by the American Library Association (she will check them out if possible from the Santa Fe Library, of course).

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