Council candidates score mayor poorly
City Council candidates in the Nov. 7 municipal election from Districts 1 and 2 had little positive to say about Mayor Alan Webber’s administration. In response to a question asking them to grade the second-term mayor, the highest score Webber received was a “C” from Districts 1 and 2 candidates Geno Zamora and Phil Lucero. The Santa Fe County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum—it will hold one for Districts 3 and 4 candidates on Oct. 12; (the Santa Fe County League of Women Voters also has forums planned next month). Candidates last night also delved into one of the race’s hot topics: affordable housing. “I had the opportunity to move back here for work,” incumbent District 2 Councilor Michael Garcia said last night. “I got an amazing opportunity for housing from my family. Without that, I’d probably be living in Rio Rancho or wherever I could afford to live. Santa Fe changed.” Garcia voted in favor of placing a high-end housing excise tax on the ballot in the same Nov. 7 election where council seats are up for grabs. Under the proposal, a buyer of a home priced over $1 million would pay a 3% excise tax on the portion of the home sale exceeding the first million. The revenue from the tax would go into the city’s Affordable House Trust Fund. Zamora, Lucero, District 1 candidate Alma Castro have also said they favor the tax. SFR’s election-season feature, Pop Quiz, returned this week with District 4 candidates demonstrating their knowledge on housing, the Midtown campus and crime, among other topics.
With rising cases, free COVID-19 tests return
Earlier this month, New Mexico health and hospital officials urged residents to seek out a new recently approved COVID-19 vaccine as cases and, more pressingly, hospitalizations had begun to rise. The most recent monthly report from the state department of health, dated Sept. 18, counts 875 new cases reported in the seven days prior. That figure—which only accounts for known cases and is thus used as an indicator for a statewide case rate—represents a 36% increase over the seven-day-prior count in the August report. Health officials have said repeatedly they now focus more on hospitalization figures versus case counts; the most recent online reporting for hospitalizations—for the seven days prior to Sept. 11, counted 65 hospitalizations, or three per 100,000 population. That being said, on Tuesday, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced the return of free COVID-19 home tests and reopening of COVIDTests.gov, with ordering of new tests officials say will detect new variants available starting Sept. 25. “Don’t wait for symptoms to appear!” New Mexico Health Secretary Patrick Allen said in a statement. “Get ahead of the curve with free COVID-19 tests delivered to your doorstep. Order now and stay one step ahead of the virus.”
ABQ police announce arrest in fatal child-shooting
Albuquerque Police yesterday announced two arrests in the Sept. 6 shooting that killed an 11-year-old boy and prompted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s now rescinded 30-day suspension of concealed and open carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. As the Albuquerque Journal reports, Police Chief Harold Medina said Jose Romero, 22, and Nathen Garley, 21, were both in custody charged with conspiracy to commit murder for the shooting that killed Froylan Villegas and paralyzed his cousin Tatiana Villegas, 23, from the waist down. Medina characterized the shooting as “a case of mistaken identity” that grew out of a dispute between Romero and another man during the Isotopes game where the shooting occurred. As described by the Associated Press, police believe Romero and Garley, “both reputed gang members,” fired more than a dozen shots at the pickup truck containing the victims because they mistook it for another vehicle. “It is our belief that these cowards mixed up the two vehicles and shot into the wrong vehicle,” Medina said.
Santa Fe commits to more EV charging stations
The City of Santa Fe announced yesterday that Mayor Alan Webber has signed the US Department of Energy-funded Charge@Work pledge that commits to supporting electric vehicle charging and clean transportation at Santa Fe workplaces. According to a news release, Santa Fe is the first city to sign the pledge. “As one of the largest employers in Santa Fe, we have the opportunity to make a big impact by helping our employees switch to a cleaner commute,” Webber said in a statement. “We know that transportation is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, so helping our employees switch to electric vehicles is an important step to reducing those emissions.” The commitment includes an agreement by the city to support a variety of EV-centric initiatives to help expand EV workplace charging stations; educate people about electric vehicles; and host test drive and informational events, with support from the Charge@Work organization. The City of Santa Fe has already installed 14 electric vehicle charging stations at its facilities, seven of which are at community centers, parking garages and libraries. The city has also requested funding from the New Mexico Legislature for nine more charging stations, and will be sponsoring the 2nd Annual Electric Car Show on the Santa Fe Plaza, happening from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, Sept. 30. View the city’s progress on vehicle electrification and other sustainability initiatives on the Sustainability Dashboard. According to the city, switching to an electric vehicle on Santa Fe’s electric grid reduces a driver’s greenhouse gas emissions by 70%. For those considering the transition, Outside magazine has a useful primer.
The National Endowment for the Arts podcast, Art Works, interviews acclaimed New Mexico sculptor Luis Tapia, a 2023 National Heritage Fellow. NEA Media Producer Josephine Reed talks with Tapia about his upbringing and interest in art, which began when he was a child. “I loved drawing a great deal and come to find out in my later life as an adult that I’m dyslexic,” Tapia says, adding that at the time, “I didn’t realize that I had this issue and nobody did.” That dyslexia stymied him in college and he began carving on the side. “I started to realize my cultural heritage a little bit more,” he says, “and finding out that the art of New Mexico, the Hispanic art of New Mexico, which at that time was basically Santos, religious images and so I started my hand copying some of the pieces.”
Long-awaited Vladem Contemporary opens this weekend
Six years in the offing, the new Vladem Contemporary (404 Montezuma Ave.) opens this weekend and delivers a brand-new Railyard-area museum with 9,969 square feet of exhibition space; 2,307 square feet of programming space; and 4,100 square feet for collections storage. The grand opening begins with a ribbon cutting at 9:30 am tomorrow, followed by free admission at both locations of the New Mexico Museum of Art from 10 am to 5 pm, with refreshments and other activities, followed by free admission, tours and art activities from 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, Sept. 24 as well. The Vladem’s first show, Shadows and Light (through April 28), showcases contemporary artists working across mediums and illustrates artists’ longstanding preoccupation with the quality of New Mexico’s light, while transcending traditional modes of landscape and representational art. The inaugural exhibition includes works by renowned artists with ties to the state, such as Agnes Martin, Virgil Ortiz and Leo Villareal (to name a very few), the latter of whom also has a permanent outdoor digital work in the museum’s breezeway. The museum also features the Window Box Project, which will house a series of installations created by New Mexico-based artists and be freely accessible year-round. The museum’s interior includes a replication of the controversial “Multicultural” mural by Gilberto Guzman, which prompted litigation and was ultimately destroyed for the building, and a kiosk that discusses mural and building’s history.
During a media preview and walk-through yesterday, New Mexico Museum of Art Executive Director Mark White told SFR he hopes visitors this weekend experience the individual works of art: “There are lots of individual experiences that people can have,” he noted, but said he believes “it’s also important to take a look at the building and how the building has been altered.” DNCA Architects oversaw the building’s transformation, which also showcases natural light, along with the surrounding downtown area; Vladem’s second story includes a large roof deck with views of both the urban environment and the mountains.
Long-awaited Teen Center opens today
The City of Santa Fe will cut the ribbon at 2:15 pm today on its new state-of-the-art-decades-in-the-making Southside center for teens (660 Valentine Way). The festivities continue until 7:30 pm tonight and from 1 to 5 pm tomorrow, Sept. 23, and will include dance performances, DJs, a screening this evening of Pitch Perfect and more. The first 200 teens today will receive free pizza and a Teen Center blanket; the first 200 teens on Saturday will receive a free Fusion tacos plate. Conception and advocacy for the Teen Center began more than a decade ago, with the final form including feedback from multiple youth summits and a 2019 study conducted by Earth Care. The 17,000 square-foot facility includes a gym, weight room, laundry facilities, an outdoor courtyard and access to a computer room where the center hopes to offer classes on coding and an audio room where teens can record podcasts. “We wanted to create a space where teenagers and people could find an outlet and find somewhere they could be safe instead of resorting to unhealthy habits or putting themselves in situations that maybe they shouldn’t be,” Nolan Hall (Diné, Cherokee), a member of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board tells SFR. He says the new center dedicates much-needed resources to the Southside. “We are finally getting to see what can happen when you’re able to help your community and see that change made,” he says, “which is really exciting.”
The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 76 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the morning. Today marks the official last day of summer, with the fall equinox beginning at 2:50 am Saturday. Our first fall weekend should be sunny and breezy, with temperatures in the low to mid 70s.