Morning Word

Homelessness Rises 48% in New Mexico

Magistrate Judge Dev Khalsa will resign under proposed deal

NM homeless rises by 48%

A report on homelessness and affordable housing delivered to the Legislative Finance Committee yesterday includes preliminary estimates that homelessness in New Mexico has increased 48% in 2023 compared with last year. Moreover, rent statewide has increased by 70%, while wages have only grown by 15%. As a result, nearly half of all renters are cost-burdened and pay more than 30% of their incomes for housing. During the hearing yesterday, LFC program analyst Kathleen Gygi and others presented the findings. “Homelessness is visible. It’s tragic and it’s increasing,” she said by way of introduction to the report. The new data shows the state’s emergency shelter capacity has more than doubled since 2016, while the supply of affordable rental units has declined by 50% since 2020. “The state as a whole is doing very well in providing emergency shelter for those most at need and at risk,” Gygi said. “However, we’re not doing such a good job at moving people into permanent housing.” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday created via executive order a Housing Investment Council and appointed its 11 members. “It is time to go big on affordable housing. We need thousands of homes to meet demand and give New Mexicans a stable foundation,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “We secured more than $82 million in the last legislative session to address housing, and an investment plan is the next step in ensuring we make the most of every housing dollar in our state.”

Mag Judge Khalsa agrees to resign

In the aftermath of his February arrest for DWI, Santa Fe County Magistrate Judge Dev Atma Khalsa has agreed to step down and never run again for a judicial position in the state, according to a stipulated motion filed with the New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday. Under that agreement, the state’s Judicial Standards Commission will drop its disciplinary case against Khalsa in exchange for his resignation and disqualification holding judicial office in the state again. If the court approves the deal, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would then appoint a replacement to serve until the 2024 election. The commission’s motion reasons that, if approved by the court, the agreement “ensures the public’s continued confidence and trust in the judiciary, and provides for judicial economy and best serves the interests of justice and the judiciary.” Khalsa, whom the Supreme Court suspended without pay last month, yesterday referred SFR to his attorney for the disciplinary case, who also refused to comment pending the Supreme Court’s decision. Khalsa’s attorney in his criminal case, Kitren Fischer, tells SFR Khalsa still maintains his innocence and that he expects to stand trial at the end of June.

City parking plan stalls

More than six months since Mayor Alan Webber and the City Council approved a one-year pilot program to provide workers earning less than $21 an hour an extra discount on parking passes for downtown garages, and the city has to roll out the permits, SFR reports this week. The discount parking project was limited to 150 permits sold on a first-come, first-serve basis to businesses that could then pass the permits on to qualifying employees. Officials approved the plan even though Public Works Director Regina Wheeler cautioned them even the limited initiative would cost the city tens of thousands of dollars in lost parking revenue and said the city didn’t have 150 spaces to spare in its garages. Wheeler now tells SFR the pilot project was largely on hold while the city searched for a new Parking Division director and, having hired one, will look at launching the program. Nonetheless, the city’s multimodal transition plan, which the council approved the same day as the parking pilot project—argues the city isn’t making the best use of its existing parking spaces and has done a poor job of directing drivers to those spaces. Other aspects of the plan also appear stalled, as SFR staff writer Andrew Oxford documents in his recent story on the city’s beleaguered bus system.

Former NMSU basketball player faces no charges in shooting

The Bernalillo District Attorney’s Office won’t be charging former New Mexico State University basketball player Mike Peake in connection with last November’s fatal shooting by Peake of University of New Mexico student Brandon Travis. In a statement reported by the Associated Press, the office said “the decision to not charge Mike Peake was made by the prior administration based on all the facts and evidence presented to them. Nothing has changed, so we’re honoring that decision.” DA spokeswoman Nancy Laflin tells the Albuquerque Journal prosecutors determined that Peake acted in self-defense. Peake also sustained a gunshot injury in the incident, in which police believe a group of UNM students lured Peake to campus in retaliation for a fight at an earlier game. Police subsequently charged UNM students Mya Hill, Jonathan Smith and Eli-sha Upshaw. NMSU suspended Peake from the team in early December pending its own investigation into the incident and, in February, canceled the remainder of the season in response to allegations of “hazing” among team members. In April, two former New Mexico State University basketball players filed a lawsuit against NMSU regents, former coaching staff and three teammates alleging sexual assault, among other crimes. “So glad I didn’t lose myself through this process,” Peake wrote on Twitter this week, following the news that he would not be charged. “I love how everyone had their own pieces to say. Now it’s my turn to explain MY STORY. In due time.”

Listen up

Prior to the May 11 end of Title 42—a federal public health law invoked during the COVID-19 pandemic to limit immigration into the US—migrants reportedly rushed across the border, but the numbers for such border crossing have unexpectedly fallen since then. On the most recent episode of New Mexico In Focus, host Gene Grant talks with panelists on what will happen next and how the end of Title 42 and the shift in immigration policies could specifically impact New Mexico’s border. Guests include: New Mexico Immigrant Law Center Asylum and Detention Managing Attorney Sophia Genovese; Deming Headlight Editor Algernon D’Ammassa; and Roberto Rosales, a photojournalist whose work often focuses on the border.

Just like riding a bicycle

Bike Month may be coming to a close in less than a week, but it’s a jam-packed week of bicycle-related events for cyclists and the pedal-curious. To start, it’s not too late to ride over to Second Street Brewery—either location—show your helmet and enjoy happy hour pricing. And that’s just one of many Bike Month discounts available through May (and in some cases year-round). Tonight, Bike Santa Fe, which relaunched this year, will hold a social hour from 5 to 7 pm at Sincere Cycles (411 W Water St., Unit B), at which folks can meet other bicyclists, learn more about Bike Santa Fe and its upcoming board elections, as well as its goals for the year. Bike Santa Fe member Kai Filion says the organization relaunched after a few years of inactivity and is looking for folks who want to be involved. The group’s Bike Month events have had robust turnout, he says, and were “a great start to our new organization.” As for Bike Santa Fe’s future advocacy plans, Filion says the organization wants to “really to listen to the community and hear what they want to have happen,” but a top priority will be improving bicyclist safety in Santa Fe and increasing dedicated bike lanes and paths. Other events in the offing before May comes to a close include a bike maintenance class at rob & charlie’s (1632 St. Michael’s Drive) on Wednesday; a bike “rodeo” and protected bike lane demo on Saturday at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center (3221 Rodeo Road); and a bike-packing overnighter to Chino Mesa in Caja del Rio, also on Saturday.

Swiping in Santa Fe

You’ll only catch a fleeting glimpse of a hotel room that kinda indicates a Southwestern vibe in the trailer for the forthcoming [HBO] Max “romantic-documentary” Swiping America, which premieres June 15. Premise: The show “follows a group of diverse singles” from New York City on an “introspective, eight-city dating app journey, as they explore personal issues around sex, relationships, love and connection. Each episode finds the group in a new American city…as producers swipe through possible matches and curate blind dates for them.” Yes, Santa Fe is one of those cities, along with Asheville, North Carolina; Miami, Florida; Austin, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Boulder, Colorado; Seattle, Washington; and Honolulu, Hawaii. The Santa Fe episode airs mid-season, but we got a sneak peak. We won’t share any spoilers, but will note the inclusion of full-frontal nudity (in a figure-drawing class); some nice Aspen Vista scenery; a romantic encounter at Cafecito; an entertaining shopping date at Santa Fe Vintage, among other local spots—mostly in the downtown area. One of the participating New Yorker singles, Ashleigh Warren, tells Cosmopolitan magazine Santa Fe was her favorite city she visited during the filming of the show. Indeed, as one prospective romantic partner says to his date: “You can be weird here.”

Many can brook the weather that love not the wind

The National Weather Service forecasts a 30% chance for precipitation today, with scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon. Otherwise, today should be mostly sunny, with a high temperature near 76 degrees and east wind 5 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. More isolated showers and thunderstorms this evening before midnight.

Thanks for reading! The Word is listening to the recorded bird songs included in this Washington Post story about birds’ songs impact on mental health (her cat also is listening to them).

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