Morning Word

Edgewood Passes Anti-Abortion Law

One-sided talks disclosed between PRC and Avangrid

Edgewood passes anti-abortion law

The town of Edgewood last night became the latest New Mexico local government to adopt an ordinance restricting abortion, following more than eight hours of a public meeting (the actual 4-1 vote takes place at about minute 27.50 in this second video). As is the case with the other New Mexico governments who have passed comparable ordinances, Edgewood’s ordinance cites the Comstock Act, an obscure 19th-century law that prohibits sending “obscene, lewd or lascivious,” “immoral” or “indecent” publications through the mail (here’s a Washington Post primer on how anti-abortion activists are employing the Comstock Act to restrict medication abortions). The local government ordinances are part of a concerted strategy anti-abortion activists say they hope to advance to the US Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court earlier this month granted New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s request to stay—or suspend—restrictive abortion ordinances in Lea and Roosevelt counties, as well as the cities of Clovis and Hobbs, and directed the parties to submit briefs addressing legal issues, including the legal impact of New Mexico’s recently enacted Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Act, which prohibits local governments from restricting access to health care in the way the aforementioned governmental bodies have done. Torrez filed his brief on the issue late last week. The city of Eunice also recently passed an ordinance restricting abortion and filed a lawsuit against Torrez and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham asking for a declaratory judgement that would allow its ordinance, which also relies on the federal Comstock Act, to “trump” New Mexico state law.

The Albuquerque Journal reports state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, one of the sponsors for the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Act, attended Edgewood’s meeting last night to support those in opposition to Edgewood’s ordinance; she also noted to the paper that the architects of these ordinances are “coming from out of state and they’re playing out these very litigious wars in our own state.” In the case of Edgewood’s new law, Texas anti-abortion activist Mark Lee Dickson told the Journal he was monitoring the meeting via Zoom, along with another meeting on the topic in Illinois. Edgewood’s new ordinance allows for some private citizens to sue people who violates the ordinance to be awarded $10,000, along with other costs and lawyer’s fees.

PRC had private communications with Avangrid over merger

The latest chapter of the Public Regulation/Avangrid/PNM saga now involves allegations of “ex-parte communication”—one-sided discussions. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports newly released PRC emails from January through March show members of the agency communicated with Avangrid officials in advance of the PRC’s support in March of a motion filed 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. Those emails were part of filings last week in the case, and included disclosure of possible ex-parte communication. The New Mexican reports PRC commissioners and lawyers, as well as Avangrid officials, assert their communications were legal. In a news release yesterday, New Energy Economy—which opposed the merger—say the purported ex-parte communications “proves that the commissioners knowingly and intentionally colluded with Avangrid/Iberdrola and PNM to expedite approval of Avangrid’s multi-billion dollar buyout of New Mexico’s largest utility.” In a statement, New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi notes that: “Rather than protecting the public interest, the Commissioners have proven through their actions and statements that the facts do not matter, the law does not matter, and their allegiance lies with the industry they are supposed to be regulating. The New Mexican people deserve better from their public servants. Avangrid tried to pull a fast one, and it’s precisely this kind of unlawful maneuvering that is their typical way of dealing with regulators; it is this type of behavior that underscores our opposition to their predatory takeover of PNM.”

State funds Santa Fe green housing startup

The state Economic Development Department announced yesterday Santa Fe housing startup B.Public Prefab has received more than $257,000 in Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) funds. In total, the JTIP board approved more than $768,000 in funds for nine companies across the state to train 48 employees. In the case of B.Public Prefab, the company will use the funds for four trainees at its Santa Fe offices and 12 trainees at its new Las Vegas manufacturing site. As Co-founder Edie Dilman told SFR last year, climate change was front and center when she launched her company with partners Jonah Stanford—to whom Dillman is married—and Charlotte Lagarde. B.Public provides panelized construction systems: standardized and prefabricated walls, floors and roofs, designed for low-energy use and high performance. The new JTIP funding, Dilman tells SFR this week, “is a huge step for us. We had already planned to do jobs training—that was a big part of the creation of this company—and to create them locally.” The decision to open manufacturing in Las Vegas was based on a variety of factors, including the hardship suffered there and in surrounding communities by the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire. “We love Las Vegas,” Dilman says. “We are committed to helping climate [change] communities that have suffered this kind of tragedy. We are committed to supporting the trade there. There’s a wonderful existing building we were able to secure as a lease; it’s an hour closer to our Colorado clients and in good proximity… to bring developers, architects, students to it without paying the high premium of being in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.” The business’ long-term plan, she notes, is to open additional manufacturing sites.

State cracks down on illegal airport taxis

Passengers deplaning at the Santa Fe Regional Airport will now not only find themselves in the midst of a protracted construction site—they may find themselves stranded as well. SFR staff writer Andrew Oxford reports this week that state regulators are now cracking down on the black market taxi industry that has evolved in response to the lack of actual transportation options. In one case, Airport Manager James Harris tells SFR, a passenger paid $80 for a ride into town. City officials say efforts to contract with private operators or encourage services to set up a service have fallen flat. High demand throughout Santa Fe for Uber and Lyft has made those services also difficult to access at the airport, Harris says. And Santa Fe Trails Director of Operations and Maintenance Thomas Martinez recently told city councilors the airport is too far away from other stops to add as a location, despite documented interest in doing so. A new long-range plan from the North Central Regional Transit District could provide one option, and Harris says he is looking into the possibility of a city-run shuttle as well.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported April 25New cases: 151; 679,331 total cases. Deaths: four. Statewide fatalities: 9,182; Santa Fe County has had 408 total deaths; Statewide hospitalizations: 61; 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 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.

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

Listen up

Scientist Lina Germann, founder and CEO of STEM Santa Fe, joins host Lorene Mills on the most recent episode of Report from Santa Fe to discuss her organization’s ongoing quest to close the gender gap in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM Santa Fe’s programs include the month-long STEM Pathways for Girls, dedicated for girls and nonbinary students in 5th-8th grade, as well as the week-long Summer STEM Circles, which is currently open for registration.

Uncertain provenance

ProPublica continues its ongoing series on repatriation, examining the delayed return of Native American remains and sacred objects by museums to the tribes to which they rightfully belong. In its newest story, ProPublica looks at objects on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Specifically, the story evaluates items from Charles and Valerie Diker’s collection, of which only 15% out of 139 works “have solid or complete ownership histories,” and some of which lack “any provenance at all.” The 1990s Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requires museums receiving federal funding to consult with tribes and allow them to reclaim items that most likely came into private ownership through looting or other similar means. In the case of the Met, it hasn’t done so in a timely way, ProPublica reports, nor has the information the museum posted about some items been accurate. Prior to becoming governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, Brian Vallo served as one of the advisors the Met hired midway through setting up a 2018 exhibition of the Dikers’ collection. At that time, Vallo was director of the Indian Arts Research Center at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe. He notes that the Dikers’ “collection is quite beautiful, but many of the objects are not well documented. There needs to be an informed process that should be followed so the museum doesn’t take in items protected by federal laws, including NAGPRA.”

Chasing waterfalls

Contrary to the message of TLC’s mid-90s slow jam, sometimes it is OK to go chasing waterfalls, particularly when they aren’t metaphors and are actual cascades of water. Indeed, Southwest Journal recommends eight “enchanting” waterfalls to explore in the Land of Enchantment, all of which “offer a diverse and awe-inspiring range of natural beauty.” The list includes Nambé FallsPecos Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, the latter described as “a picturesque waterfall often overlooked by tourists” in which “the falls drop approximately 80 feet into a rocky canyon, surrounded by lush greenery and stunning alpine scenery.” FWIW, we are fairly certain Bridal Veil Falls is not located in the Taos Ski Valley area, as this story posits, but can actually be found in the Lincoln National Forest in Alamogordo, several hundred miles away. Speaking of miles and travel, Afar magazine includes New Mexico in its roundup of eight “US national park road trips to take in your lifetime,” specifically a five-day jaunt from New Mexico to Texas that starts here with White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns national parks and ends with stargazing in Big Bend National Park in Texas. Also on the New Mexico/car tip, Bentley Motors is kicking off a new travel series, described by Skift as “an unforgettable driving experience coupled with the best excursions and indulgences each destination has to offer.” The Extraordinary Journeys series includes a New Mexico itinerary, a four-day/three-night, $20,000 grand extravaganza based out of Bishop’s Lodge.

The chill is on

The National Weather Service forecasts a 30% chance for precipitation today with scattered showers, mainly between noon and 3 pm. It will otherwise be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 57 degrees and northwest wind 10 to 20 mph becoming northeast in the afternoon..

Thanks for reading! The Word has fallen into an ill-advised Björk-fashion-obsessed hole from which she may never emerge.

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