Morning Word

“His Life Was a Gift,” Clinton Says of Richardson During Eulogy

NM Gas Company proposes 11% rate increase

Former Pres. Bill Clinton delivers Richardson eulogy

“If you scratch hard enough and long enough on anybody, there’s almost always still a person down there somewhere. And the person may have bad ideas and may be emotionally warped, may be twisted beyond untwisting, but once in a while they do the right thing anyway. Bill Richardson knew that.” So said former President Bill Clinton in a rousing eulogy to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson during a Mass of Christian Burial held yesterday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (Clinton’s remarks begin approximately one hour and 23 minutes into the service). Richardson died Sept. 1 at the age of 75. Clinton traced his relationship with Richardson through both of their careers; they met in 1985 when Richardson represented New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District (New Mexico’s current House delegation paid tribute to him yesterday from Washington, DC, as well), and served as UN ambassador and Department of Energy Secretary for Clinton’s administration. “Bill Richardson knew how to make people feel important and valued,” Clinton said.

Clinton and Richardson had a temporary fallout when Richardson endorsed Barack Obama over Hilary Clinton in the 2008 presidential election after dropping out the Democratic primary himself. Clinton referenced two “major fights” he had with Richardson during their long relationship and said he had apologized to Richardson for one and Richardson had asked for his forgiveness in the other. “That’s what real people try to do with their lives,” Clinton said. “Nobody is perfect. But everybody has a power beyond their ability to imagine and a responsibility to live the best life they can. That’s what Bill Richardson did. And all of us who were touched by him know that. His energy was infectious. His skills were prodigious. His life was a gift and I’m so glad that each in our different ways, we received it.” Archbishop of Santa Fe John Wester oversaw the service attended by an estimated 1,000 people, including Richardson’s wife of 50 years, Barbara Richardson, his sister Vesta Richardson and numerous public officials and former political prisoners and their relatives whom Richardson helped.

NM Gas Co. seeks 11% rate hike

New Mexico Gas Company has applied for an approximate 11% rate increase. If approved by the Public Regulation Commission, the new rates would go into effect no earlier than October 2024, the company’s executive summary of its application states, with an average monthly residential bill (gas usage of 53 therms per month) increasing by approximately $6.70, with updates for most of its separate rate classes. “We strive to keep costs as low as possible, but we are experiencing inflation and increasing costs in many areas, including costs to comply with expanding regulatory requirements as well as costs for retaining and attracting a skilled workforce to serve our customers,” NMGC President Ryan Shel said in a statement. “We understand any rate increase is challenging but we believe it is needed so we can continue to meet our obligation for safely providing reliable natural gas service to New Mexicans.” Increased revenue of $49 million would pay for upgrades and improvements to NMGC’s gas delivery infrastructure; replacement of customer billing and account information system; and increasing operating expenses, the news release says, noting that “most of the gas infrastructure investments are required to keep pace with expanding federal and state regulations related to pipeline reliability and safety.” The request follows a prior 4.3% rate increase that went into effect in January.

Santa Fe City Clerk resigns

City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic will be leaving the city to spend more time with her family—specifically her three sons—she told city councilors and other officials during the Sept. 13 City Council meeting. “They have really expressed how much they miss their mom and how much they’re ready to have me back,” she said, noting her extended family has helped with late nights and missed practices. “It really took a community for me to be in this role.” Bustos-Mihelcic has headed the city’s Constituent and Council Services since 2018, when she joined the city government after a stint as spokeswoman for Santa Fe County. She transitioned to also take over as city clerk in 2020, formally accepting the job in January 2021. She commended her team’s work over the years, including recent accomplishments such as the online candidate portal and the Teen Center, which is scheduled for a grand opening Sept. 22-23. The last day at work for Bustos-Mihelcic, who was paid an annual salary of $111,220, will be Sept. 29. Members of the governing body lamented her resignation but wished her well in her future endeavors during the meeting. Multiple councilors called the city clerk’s exit “a huge loss.”

Two candidates contend for SFCC open seat

Communications professional Lorenzo Dominguez and science educator Lina Germann both hope to fill the one open seat on the Santa Fe Community College Governing Board in the upcoming Nov. 7 election. Board Chair George Gamble is not seeking re-election, he tells SFR, because he thinks the board “needs new ideas, new passions, new DNA every once in a while” and it is “time for some new perspectives.” The five at-large members serve six-year terms on the board, and primarily focus on the college’s financial and educational policies. Dominguez, who moved with his family to Cerrillos in May 2021, tells SFR he’s spent the last two years gaining experience in education by serving on the board at his children’s charter school while working remotely in communications for his former employer, New York Life Insurance Company. He says he wants to focus on supporting the needs of students, staff and faculty by improving internal communications. Germann, a 26-year resident and founder of STEM Santa Fe, notes she has worked closely with the college to host several math and science-oriented programs with her nonprofit, and she has six years of teaching chemistry at SFCC under her belt. She wants to focus on three major categories on the college board: expanding STEM education, postsecondary opportunities and making SFCC a “hub for the community.”

Listen up

In collaboration with the 17th Annual New Mexico Jazz Festival presented by Albuquerque’s Outpost Performance Space and the Lensic Performing Arts Center (through Sept. 30), Collected Works Bookstore hosts a 5:30 pm discussion tonight between Willard Jenkins and AB Spellman, primarily focused on the book Ain’t But a Few of Us: Black Music Writers Tell Their Story, edited by Jenkins, artistic director of the DC Jazz Festival, as well as an arts consultant, producer, educator and print and broadcast journalist. The book “presents over two dozen candid dialogues with black jazz critics and journalists,” including from Spellman, a poet, writer, music critic and music historian. The event will take place in person (202 Galisteo St.) and on Zoom; register here.

Sotheby’s to auction NY, Santa Fe art patron’s collection

As reported in myriad publications this week, Sotheby’s emerged victorious as the seller of the art collection of a significant New York patron with close ties to Santa Fe: Emily Fisher Landau. Last month, various outlets reported both Sotheby’s and Christie’s were vying for the $400 million collection. Sotheby’s will mount two auctions Nov. 8-9, with widespread attention on Fisher Landau’s $120 million 1932 Picasso painting “Femme à la montre” (Woman With a Watch), described by Julian Dawes, Sotheby’s head of Impressionist & Modern Art in the Americas, as “a masterpiece by every measure.” As SFR noted upon Fisher Landau’s death at the age of 102 on March 27, in addition to her well-known work on the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art, she also played significant roles in Santa Fe’s art scene, serving on both SITE Santa Fe and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s boards. “Emily was a friend and advocate of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum from our founding,” Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Director Cody Hartley said at the time in a statement provided to SFR. “She understood and cared deeply about Georgia O’Keeffe’s legacy and was crucial in the ambitious launch of our Research Center, a resource dedicated to the study of O’Keeffe and American Modernism.” O’Keeffe’s painting “Pink Tulip” is listed as one of the Fisher Landau collection’s highlights, which will travel in exhibition prior to the full auction.

State of mind

Two New Mexico cities made the Livability website’s list of the top 25 best places to live in the Southwest, with Santa Fe coming in at #21 and Las Cruces squeaking in at #24. “Santa Fe, Livability writes, offers “stunning natural beauty, affordable housing, excellent schools and outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation like hiking, swimming, skiing and more.” Not only that, but we are apparently located in “The Cactus State,” which “boasts a dazzling array of natural beauty.” New Mexico’s official nickname, of course, is The Land of Enchantment, but, yes, some have on occasion referred to it as The Cactus State—like on this magnet, which also features a saguaro cactus, which don’t grow here (particularly in Northern New Mexico; you may find a handful of saguaros around city #24 perhaps). Santa Fe also ranked second in The Family Vacation Guide’s list of US Cultural Hotspots (right after Palm Springs, CA and right before Annapolis, MA). Santa Fe received a score of 8.99 out of 10, with particularly high scores for the ratio of museums and galleries to population. We also apparently had the third-highest number of culture-related Instagram posts per 1,000 people. All these plaudits should be making New Mexicans happy but, it turns out: not so much. According to WalletHub’s new look at the “happiest states in America,” New Mexico ranked 42, with high rates of divorce and suicide, and low rates of volunteerism. Fortunately, according to one of WalletHub’s handpicked experts, Harvard Psychology Professor Ellen Langer: “If you are mindful and feel supported and cared for by those around you, you can be happy wherever you are.”

Fall countdown

The National Weather Service forecasts another 50% chance for precipitation today, with scattered showers and thunderstorms primarily after noon. Otherwise, it will be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 72 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Chances for rain drop to 20% tomorrow and zilch on Sunday, with temps remaining in the low 70s and mid 70s, respectively.

Thanks for reading! The Word looks forward to a cozy fall reading season, and is perusing the nonfiction National Book Award Longlist titles announced yesterday and listening to today’s knockout poem of the day by Samiya Bashir.

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