New CYFD council meets as agency starts restructuring
New Mexico’s newly formed Children, Youth and Families Department advisory council met for the first time yesterday and began discussing the tasks ahead for the distressed agency. Last February, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive order overhauling CYFD, which has been chronically plagued with reports of repeat abuse of children in its care, and one of the worst rates in the US for such repeat child abuse cases. Last month, the governor announced former New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil would be stepping down as CYFD’s cabinet secretary to serve on the new advisory council. Teresa Casados, the governor’s chief operating officer, is currently serving as interim secretary, while the state undertakes a national search for new leadership. At yesterday’s inaugural meeting, the Albuquerque Journal reports, Casados said some restructuring of the agency is underway, while other changes will require legislative approval. While the council will be meeting regularly, it has not yet finalized its schedule. The new council met as CYFD also reports reimbursing over the last three weeks more than $210,000 in 950 payments to foster families and providers—an issue the agency says numerous people raised at a CYFD roundtable last month; the reimbursements, the agency says, have eliminated the backlog. “An immediate priority I identified upon coming into this role at CYFD is a need to rebuild and strengthen relationships and how the department works with foster families,” Casados said in a statement “Foster families are such a critical part of how a child welfare system functions, and we have to make sure they are getting the resources they need to be successful.” The department says it’s revising its reimbursement process and will continue hosting roundtables around the state. Foster families who still have outstanding payments should contact: email@example.com
Heinrich seeks a third term in US Senate
US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, yesterday officially declared via video his candidacy for a third term, declaring himself “all in” for New Mexico, and citing his efforts to curb gun violence, expand health care for veterans and secure nearly $4 billion in federal compensation for the state in the aftermath of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire. As of now, Heinrich faces no opposition in the 2024 election after winning a three-way race in 2018 against Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian Gary Johnson. According to the Federal Election Commission, Heinrich had approximately $1.9 million on hand for his race as of March. Heinrich has been a rumored gubernatorial candidate since his public criticism of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s vetoes of climate-change related bills, although running for US Senate next year does not necessarily preclude a gubernatorial run in 2026. “We have to take on the challenges that have been written up for too long,” Heinrich said in yesterday’s announcement. “We need to diversify New Mexico’s economy. We have to continue the transition to clean energy and we have to build upon our historic investment in early childhood education.”
NM AG files new brief in abortion litigation
New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez yesterday joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general to file a new friend-of-the-court—amicus—brief in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit regarding a March decision by US District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk restricting access to mifepristone, one of the drugs used for medication abortion. The US Supreme Court last month restored access and returned the case to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which is scheduled to hear arguments this month. “The fact that a single, conservative judge is claiming that a decade-safe drug is harmful and should be banned places a colossal burden on millions of Americans and defies science,” Torrez said in a statement. “In addition to gatekeeping a safe and effective drug, the decision also places unnecessary stress and confusion on our medical field and medical professionals. I will continue to join these multi state efforts and lead my state through the fight to protect this fundamental right.” The Texas ruling also halted the Food & Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the drug. In the amicus brief, the coalition argues that the FDA’s determination that mifepristone “is safe and effective is supported by an overwhelming medical consensus developed over more than two decades of use.”
So you wanna be a Hollywood writer...
The current Hollywood writers strike might make the prospect of pursuing a career as a screen writer dubious at best, but for those who are still working on their chops and hoping for an equitable outcome for said writers, Monday is the deadline to apply for New Mexico’s emerging screenwriter training program. The state Film Office is partnering for the second time with Stowe Story Labs to provide “New Voices New Mexico,” which will be administered in three parts over six months by Stowe Story Labs Founder and Director David Rocchio. According to a news release, this year’s program kicks off in June and will include: an online narrative lab curriculum focusing on skill development, story structure and “learning elements of pitching a project in various environments and packaging.” The program also includes networking opportunities and peer-to-peer feedback. “Our unique collaboration with Stowe Story Labs’ ‘New Voices New Mexico’ has proven to be a highly effective incubator supporting New Mexican screenwriters, providing them the mentorship, tools and access needed to transform an idea into a script,” Film Office Director Amber Dodson said in a statement. The program is open to 10 emerging screenwriters and filmmakers developing their first or second feature film or TV project. If selected to participate, program fees, meals and lodging costs will be covered. Participants will only pay a $10 application fee and travel expenses. Apply here. While the writers strike has yet to impact New Mexico in a noticeable way, writers this week picketed major studios in New York and Los Angeles, including Netflix, which has a notable New Mexico presence.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported May 4: New cases: 156; 680,594 total cases. Deaths: 12 Statewide fatalities: 9,236; Santa Fe County has had 410 total deaths; Statewide hospitalizations: 71; patients on ventilators: four. The state health department will stop reporting daily COVID-19 cases on May 11.
The Centers for Disease and Prevention most recent May 4 “community levels” map shows two New Mexico counties have turned yellow, depicting medium levels: Colfax and McKinley. The rest of the counties remain green, aka have low levels.
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.
You may have picked up on some of the sharp criticism aimed at Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham following the legislative session as it relates to climate-change legislation. The most recent episode of Resilient New Mexico delves deeply into climate related bills that did, or didn’t survive (spoiler alert: the comprehensive climate legislation advocates wanted to see to codify the state’s emission goals never manifested and the governor either vetoed or pocket-vetoed several bills advocates backed); how New Mexico compares to other states, along with some of the state’s largest successes and areas in need of improvement. Hosts Sandra West and Peter Heald talk these topics through with guest Tom Solomon from 350 New Mexico. “It was, I think, in all ways, a very, very disappointing session,” Soloman says. “We thought we had made at least some progress and that was eliminated at the end.”
Happy Cinco de Mayo
Disclaimer: We do not purport to provide a complete listing here of potential Cinco de Mayo festivities around Santa Fe but, rather, a sampling to whet your appetite for celebrating in one fashion or another the annual Mexican holiday (here’s a few in Albuquerque as well). Cowgirl will have a special Cinco de Mayo menu (hello tacos and sangria), along with the music of Felix y Los Gatos; Matador celebrates both Cinco de Mayo and its 16th anniversary, and is one of SFR’s picks for the week. Fire & Hops hosts a Cinco de Mayo Tap Takedown with Ex Novo Brewing, food specials and limited cervezas. Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery will have an evening of Latin rock with Smooth and special guest Richard Segovia. The Santa Fe Brewing Company hosts Cinco de Mayhem a Burlesque & Variety Show, featuring Zircus Erotique. And for a Cinco de Mayo event that does not involve alcohol, local Baile Folklórico nonprofit Los Niños de Santa Fe, a program dedicated to preserving traditional dances of Mexico, will perform at 5:15 pm and 6:15 pm at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum as part of the First Friday series, in which the museum (and other downtown museums and galleries) offer extended hours and free admission from 5 to 7 pm.
“Dear Douglas Adams: Ever since I read your very funny science-fiction novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and all its sequels (I especially like So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, by the way), I have been pondering the meaning of the universe. At the most inconvenient times, like during my English midterms, I find myself wondering, ‘Is 42 really the answer to everything, or is Mr. Adams’ fictional computer Deep Thought mistaken?’” So begins Santa Fe seventh-grader Adele Kaltenbach’s award-winning letter to Adams, recently named the Level 2 (for grades 7-8) winner in the 2023 New Mexico Letters About Literature competition, in which students grades 4-12 write to their favorite authors to explain “how the book changed or shaped their perspective on themselves or the world.” Level 1 (grades 4-6) winner Amber Yoder, a fifth grade student in Albuquerque, wrote to Raina Telgemeier about her award-winning autobiographical graphic novel Smile about her dental and social challenges. Greta Martin, a tenth grade student in Tijeras, the Level III champion (9-12 grade) wrote to Elle McNicoll about her book A Kind of Spark, in which an autistic 11-year-old named Addie “campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown.” According to a news release from the State Library announcing the winners, 183 New Mexico students entered the competition; a panel of judges—librarians, authors and book professionals from across the state—helped select the winners. Read all the winning letters and watch the students read them here.
Red flag warning
The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for today, and forecasts sunny skies with a high temperature of 69 degrees, and breezy, with a north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest 15 to 25 sometime this morning. Both Saturday and Sunday will be in the high 60s to low 70s with winds 10 to 20 mph; NWS has issued fire weather watch warnings for both days.