Morning Word

State Auditor, Treasurer: Some Local Governments Not Following Banking Rules

Las Tusas fire 60% contained

State finance officials: Local governments risking bank accounts

The state auditor and treasurer’s office today jointly released an alert to local governments about properly safeguarding their bank accounts. The alert, State Auditor Joseph Maestas and State Treasurer Laura Montoya write in a news release, follows the recent high-profile collapses of several banks, which raised “serious concerns about the need to safeguard money in banks.” Some local governments, they say, are not following collateralization laws and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation guidance. Instead, “in recent months, some local governments bypassed the collateral requirements by adding multiple employees or elected officials to bank accounts to secure $250,000 of FDIC insurance for each account signer. New Mexico state law requires banks to have proper collateralization to safeguard taxpayers’ money. Any amount of public money held in banks over the $250,000 insured by the FDIC must be backed by other forms of sureties.” The news release does not name which governments bypassed these requirements; SFR requested but did not receive the information before this morning’s early deadline. “This practice is inconsistent with state and federal law,” Montoya said in a statement, adding that her office would “continue to work with government agencies and banks to ensure that New Mexico funds are not at financial risk.” Maestas notes the situation highlights “why audits are important. Without an independent audit, these safeguards would have been bypassed and our public funds could have been in jeopardy.” In March, the state auditor identified hundreds of late audits and reports across the state from local governments. The City of Santa Fe has been chronically late with its audits as well, and has not yet filed its 2021 and 2022 audits.

Las Tusas fire 60% contained

Fire officials over the weekend reported “significant progress” securing the fire line in the Las Tusas fire in San Miguel County—first reported May 10, with containment reaching 60%. Firefighters set up “mop up operations…to create a barrier of ‘cold black’ along the fire line,” a Saturday update says, with the barrier intended to “act like a catcher’s mitt, keeping embers and other potential threats within the fire line.” Yesterday, officials said the “cooler temperatures, higher humidity and cloud cover” had helped firefighters make significant gains in securing the fire line, although the area had received no significant precipitation. “Suppression repair is taking place, and any damage caused by fighting the fire will be repaired as firefighters continue to secure the fire perimeter. As the incident progresses and containment rises the organization will continue to decrease as excess resources are demobilized.” Officials revised the acreage of the fire using GPS mapping down to 969 acres (it had been previously estimated at more than 1,000). Evacuation orders for about 492 people living in 165 residences in proximity of the fire—located west of Sapello and approximately 12 miles north of Las Vegas—were lifted Friday; all road closures also have been lifted. The San Miguel County Sheriff’s office damage assessment says the fire has destroyed three structures along with 10 outbuildings. The fire’s cause remains under investigation.

Edgewood residents seek recall of anti-abortion ordinance

Edgewood residents are organizing to recall an ordinance passed by the town council last month restricting women’s access to health care. As is the case with the other ordinances adopted by local governments, Edgewood’s cites the Comstock Act, an obscure 19th-century law that prohibits sending “obscene, lewd or lascivious,” “immoral” or “indecent” publications through the mail, as a means of restricting access to abortion medication. The ordinance also allows individuals to sue anyone who either sends or receives such medication. The new We Call 4 a Recall group says via news release it is mobilizing to collect enough signatures—a website for the group says 242 are needed—to qualify for a special election on the issue. “The new ordinance banning any efforts or medical access to abortion related services or products is a gross violation of the individual rights and belief of every person in the Town of Edgewood,” a provided statement from Edgewood residents Bryce and Susan Simons says. At the beginning of the year, New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez challenged in state Supreme Court similar ordinances passed by Roosevelt County, Lea County and the cities of Hobbs and Clovis. Among other points, Torrez argues the ordinances violate the state Constitution (Article II: the Bill of Rights), and protections guaranteed by the recently enacted Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Act.

SFPD shooting raises questions

The Santa Fe Police Department reported an officer shot a man on Friday while responding to a call at a residence in the 100 block of Calle Ojo Feliz. That call, an SFPD news release says, referenced a suicidal male who had discharged a firearm. “The calling party reported a male individual instructed the caller to call 911 because he wanted to kill himself, showed the caller a firearm and then walked into the arroyo and fired the gun.” After arriving, police say they heard the male in question discharge the firearm multiple times and then requested assistance from Santa Fe Fire Department. “Officers made contact with the male subject who was armed with a firearm and refusing to put it down. Officers began communicating with the male to attempt to deescalate the situation. At least one officer to discharged their department firearm, striking the male,” the release says. SFPD and Fire Department officials rendered aid and transported the shooting victim to the hospital; no officers were injured. New Mexico State Police, which responded on scene, is conducting the investigation into the officer-involved shooting, with the case remaining under active investigation. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports neighbors from the area want answers as to why the situation, which they say involved a confused 80-year-old man, wasn’t handled with better crisis intervention. “Why did they shoot him?” one neighbor asked. “Why couldn’t they throw a net over him or something? He was unhappy; he was sad. They should have helped him, not [try to] kill him.”

SFPD announced on Saturday they had charged two juveniles for making an active shooter threat hoax that occurred April 21 when police were dispatched to multiple schools. Police say they interviewed several students that day “and learned that the threat was a hoax which had been concocted by two juveniles.” On May 5, police identified the students responsible, interviewed them and forwarded criminal charges to the Juvenile Probation and Parole Office. “The Santa Fe Police Department takes these pranks very seriously and will vigorously work to identify and prosecute anyone compromising the safety of our schools or interrupting the educational process,” the news release reads. Such hoaxes, police say, affect public safety “but also directly impact the community and our schools and will not be tolerated.”

Listen up

As Santa Fe diners know, everything Jambo Chef Ahmed Obo touches turns delicious. A chronic winner in SFR’s Best of Santa Fe competition for best chef and best international cuisine, Obo is also known for his charitable works and humble demeanor. Now, with his latest venture as owner of Bobcat Bite—newly titled Jambo Bobcat Bite—Obo intends to show his local fans his green chile chops. He joins Heating it Up radio show host and James-Beard award-winning cookbook author Cheryl Alters Jamison to discuss his new culinary enterprise. Santa Feans, he tells Alters Jamison, inspired the move. “This is for me, a way of continuing growing and to show my fans what I can do with green chile,” he says.

C is for Capitol

Steve Stephens’ mission to visit all 50 US state capitol buildings (he’s up to 37) brings him to Santa Fe, where he takes stock of the Roundhouse in a story for Ohio’s The Columbus Dispatch. New Mexico’s state capitol (490 Old Santa Fe Trail), built in 1966, is one of the newer state capitols in the country, Stephens notes—only Hawaii and Florida’s are newer. The building’s territorial style, he writes, makes for “a beautiful and unusual structure, and the nation’s only round state capitol” (who knew?). The building’s geometry, he notes, “reflects the iconic Zia sun symbol,” while the rotunda skylight features “an Indian basket-weave design with blue representing the sky and pink the earth.” The House and Senate Chambers lack frills, he writes—likening them to a “nice insurance company,”and Stephens speculates the utilitarian digs may be due to New Mexico lawmakers’ unpaid/part-time status— and he has a side-by-side comparison view of New Mexico’s chambers with Pennsylvania’s on Twitter. The story makes note, as well, of the Capitol Art Collection: “The art covers a wide variety of styles and mediums; some reflecting the traditions of the native pueblo peoples; some with classical American Western themes; some quite modern, even avant-garde.” Hughes’ favorite: Holly Hughes’ “Buffalo”: “a life-sized realistic bison head that, on close inspection, resolves itself into a delightful mixed-media hodgepodge of recycled objects like recording tape, paint brushes and broken pottery.”

O’Keeffe & Moore

While the current Museum of Modern Art Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition, To See Takes Time has garnered a variety of critical thought regarding O’Keeffe’s early work and her career as a whole, a new exhibition that opened over the weekend at the San Diego Museum of Art considers her alongside another modernist. “O’Keeffe and Moore” (through Aug. 27) juxtaposes “a renowned American artist best known for her vibrant paintings of flowers and New Mexican landscapes” alongside Henry Moore, “a beloved British sculptor whose monumental, semi-abstract pieces are peppered throughout the United Kingdom.” So writes the San Diego Union-Tribune, which provides the back story for how these two artists came to be considered for a joint exhibition. Short version: SDMA Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and Education Anita Feldman had previously worked at the Henry Moore Foundation in England. She visited Santa Fe to look at O’Keeffe’s work here; O’Keeffe staff visited the Moore Foundation, and slowly connections came together. “When I was looking at some of the O’Keeffe collections, it was almost like I was looking at it through Henry Moore’s eyes,” Feldman tells the Union Tribune. The story details some of those commonalities—the exhibition sounds expansive, with works on loan from 30 other museums, institutions and lenders, and includes recreations of both artists’ studios. But, we’ll be able to see for ourselves; the show travels next to the Albuquerque Museum.

Right as rain

The National Weather Service forecasts a potentially day and week ahead, with a 50% chance for precipitation today via showers and thunderstorms. It will otherwise be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 67 degrees.

Thanks for reading! The Word continues to find the Eurovision Song Contest super weird and highly entertaining (here’s this year’s winning song, from Sweden’s Loreen).

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