Late audits again jeopardize City of Santa Fe
The state Department of Finance Administration says the City of Santa Fe’s late 2022 fiscal year audit jeopardizes its ability to receive capital outlay funds. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports DFA alerted Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber to the potential blocking of funds in a letter last month, saying the city would be able to move forward with specific projects if it secured a fiscal agent, and recommended the North Central Economic Development District. City Manager John Blair tells the paper the city is working with DFA “to receive these appropriations to improve our City as quickly as possible.” DFA’s warning comes as the latest in a long history of admonishments the city has faced due to its chronically late audits. Last month, the city released 2021 fiscal year audit, originally due on Dec. 31, 2021; the outstanding FY22 was due more than eight months ago. The city’s 2020, 2019 and 2018 audits also were late, leading former State Auditor Brian Colón last year to announce his office would be intervening in the city’s finances. In March, current State Auditor State Auditor Joseph Maestas raised concerns to the city about the possible hit to Santa Fe’s bond rating as a result of the late audits.
Mayor Webber heading to DC summit
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber will be among the hundreds of US and international mayors attending Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 10th annual summit, Bloomberg CityLab 2023, Oct. 18-20 in Washington, DC. According to a news release, Webber’s attendance is free and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Cities are facing an era of increasingly intractable issues— from leading their communities through rapid urbanization to confronting emerging technologies to reinvigorating economic development to solving for housing affordability,” a news release regarding the conference reads. Bloomberg CityLab 2023 “will convene more than 500 mayors and leading urban and civic leaders, from policymakers to creatives. Together they will share and explore new ideas and urban interventions that are being pressure-tested in the present and will impact the future of cities—where more than half the world’s population lives.” Speakers at this year’s conference include Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser; Foreign Policy Editor in Chief Ravi Agraval; and Bloomberg Philosophies founder and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose 2020 presidential campaign Webber endorsed.
NM Supreme Court clarifies Native American custody
The state Supreme Court yesterday issued an opinion that New Mexico courts must analyze the qualifications of expert witnesses in each of the areas required under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and that “the testimony can come from one or multiple experts.” As explained in a news release from the court, under ICWA, courts can’t place a Native American child in foster care or terminate parental rights without evidence supported by testimony of a “qualified expert witness” in two areas: whether the child is likely to experience serious emotional or physical damage by remaining in the parents’ custody or “Indian custody”; and the “prevailing social and cultural standards of the Indian child’s tribe.” In its opinion, the court ordered a case back to the District Court in Valencia County for new hearings on whether a child, who is eligible for membership in the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes of Oklahoma through her mother, was abused and neglected and should remain in custody of the state Children, Youth and Families Department after finding the court had improperly qualified an expert witness.
State police focus on ABQ
New Mexico State Police say its “proactive operations” in the Albuquerque area are underway and focused on “apprehending wanted violent felons and suppressing violent crime by targeting criminals” who police believe have involvement in criminal activity. “Let me be clear, if you are a wanted violent criminal or you are involved in violent crime in Albuquerque, you will be getting to know my officers very soon,” NMSP Chief of Police Troy Weisler says in a statement. “Criminals have run amuck, terrorizing our streets and neighborhoods, and creating a sense of lawlessness for too long. This is not a short-term operation; the New Mexico State Police are here to assist our fellow law enforcement agencies for the long term.” Earlier this month, State police announced its intentions to beef up operations in Albuquerque in the wake of the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s now-rescinded 30-day suspension of open and concealed weapon carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo. State police say the agency will also be conducting traffic enforcement operations along Interstate 25 and Interstate 40 in Bernalillo County “during peak traffic hours and will take action to reduce crashes, aggressive driving, speeding, seatbelt usage, distracted driving, and DWIs.”
On the most recent episode of Community Matters, Santa Fe Community Foundation’s monthly show on KSFR, host Sandra Session-Robertson, the foundation’s vice president of development and donor relations, talks to River Source Executive Director Rich Schrader about the Santa Fe-based educational nonprofit focused on watershed resilience projects. Schrader discusses the organization’s roots and its approach to navigating the conflicts between stakeholders and policymakers, among others. “We try to really be holistic in our approach,” Schrader says. “We try to come into situations not being the ones with all the answers.”
Local outdoor groups receive state grants
Speaking of River Source, it is one of several Santa Fe-based environmental groups receiving funding through the Outdoor Recreation Division’s equity funds. The state last week announced $1.7 million in awards as the first round of the fiscal year 2024 grant cycle. “New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division has quickly become a national model as we invest not just in trails and rural communities but also our youth,” Economic Development Department Deputy Secretary Jon Clark said in a statement, adding that Outdoor Equity programs have “introduced 20,892 young New Mexicans to the outdoors through day hikes, bike rides, camping trips, fishing, river adventures, acequia irrigation and more,” with many “having these experiences for the very first time, setting them on a path of healthier living and outdoor stewardship.” In addition to River Source, which received $30,000 for its Water Jobs Pathway project, seven other organizations either based in Santa Fe or with a presence here, received funding. They include Global Warming Express, which received $40,000 for its fishing and watershed education project; Latino Outdoors, which also operates in Bernalillo County and received $40,000; Mountain Kids!, which received $40,000 for its after-school and summer program; the National Audubon Society ($29,858.60); Reunity Resources, which received $40,000 for its annual summer camp; and Santa Fe Conservation Trust ($40,000) for its Safe Routes to School initiative.
GRRM joins ChatGPT lawsuit
Santa Fe’s favorite benefactor, Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin, is among among 17 writers who have joined a proposed class-action lawsuit over ChatGPT, Vulture reports. The full complaint, filed by the New York–based Authors Guild, accuses OpenAI’s program of “flagrant and harmful” copyright infringement; other plaintiffs include fellow Santa Fe-based author Douglas Preston, along with John Grisham, George Saunders, Jodi Picoult and Jonathan Franzen, to name a few. The suit alleges that the professional authors represented rely on their creative work for their livelihoods and that Chat GPT’s large language models “endanger fiction writers’ ability to make a living” in that they “allow anyone to generate—automatically and freely (or very cheaply) texts that they would otherwise pay writers to create.” The suit also points out that ChatGPT could have used works already in the public domain or paid licensing fees for copyrighted works but, instead, simply evaded the Copyright Act “to power their lucrative commercial endeavor.” “This case is merely the beginning of our battle to defend authors from theft by OpenAI and other generative AI,” Maya Shanbhag Lang, Authors Guild president and a class representative, said in a statement to Variety. “Our staff, which includes a formidable legal team, has expertise in copyright law. This is all to say: We do not bring this suit lightly. We are here to fight.” AI also factors into the Hollywood writers strike, in which a tentative agreement has been reached, and the actors’ strike, which remains ongoing.
High and dry
The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day with a high temperature near 80 degrees and east wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. afternoon.