SFPD seek info on fatal car wreck
Santa Fe Police Department investigators are asking the public to provide information on a car accident yesterday that killed a 17-year-old Santa Fe High School student. In a news release, SFPD says officers responded at approximately 12:43 yesterday to a report of a vehicle crash in the southbound lane of St. Francis Drive. Once on the scene, officers located a vehicle that had struck a support pillar under the I-25 overpass at a high rate of speed. The driver, 17-year-old Daniel Bojorquez, succumbed to his injuries sustained in the crash. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the accident victim attended Santa Fe High School. “Our community has suffered a deep loss with the death of one of our 12th grade students,” Santa Fe High Principal David Vincent wrote in an announcement to staff and families yesterday evening, according to the newspaper. “He was in a fatal car accident today. He will be sorely missed.” SFPD says the accident—which shut down traffic in the area for hours yesterday—remains under active investigation and asks anyone with additional information to contact Crash Investigator Officer James McCowen at (505) 603-1529 or via email at email@example.com.
AG hosts gun violence summit—sans governor
New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez yesterday hosted a law enforcement summit at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce to discuss gun violence. The summit follows Torrez’s letter to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month in which he informed the governor he would not defend her now-rescinded 30-day open and concealed carry ban in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. In that letter, Torrez said while he too felt “anger and frustration” regarding gun violence—particularly against children—he did not believe the proposed ban would “have any meaningful impact on public safety” nor pass “constitutional muster.” In a statement issued yesterday following the summit, Torrez noted that “gun violence is a serious problem and it requires a serious, thoughtful approach grounded in the real world experience of law enforcement professionals. For far too long police and prosecutors have been bystanders to the legislative and policy-making process in Santa Fe. That’s why we organized this summit and created an opportunity for those closest to the problem to offer some practical advice for how we can work together to make our communities safer.” According to a news release, law enforcement officials and prosecutors during the summit discussed “their personal experiences relating to gun violence and their opinions on solutions that would make communities throughout New Mexico safer,” such as “tools and legislation to hold violent, repeat offenders accountable, resources to recruit and train more law enforcement officers and prosecutors, and laws that target and deter individuals that possess firearms in the commission of a crime.”
CYFD settles whistleblower suit for $650,000
The law firm representing a couple who sued their former employer, the state Children, Youth, and Families Department, yesterday announced a $650,000 settlement in the 2021 lawsuit brought by Debra and Cliff W. Gilmore. The Gilmores filed their lawsuit under the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act, alleging they were fired in retaliation for raising concerns about potentially unethical and illegal conduct by CYFD senior officials. Those concerns included CYFD’s use of the Signal texting application, which automatically deletes messages, and former Secretary Brian Blalock’s award of a multi-million project to a California firm without a competitive bidding process (the State Ethics Commission subsequently dismissed the contract complaint). CYFD did not admit liability or wrongdoing as part of the settlement, a news release notes, but in a statement the Gilmores said they believe the settlement nonetheless shows some accountability. “We wanted to hold CYFD accountable and stand up for others who may have been treated the way we were,” the Gilmores said. “We aimed to shine light on what we believed to be wrongdoing that was directly harmful to the very children that CYFD was sworn to protect. From here, we must rely on diligent oversight by public citizens, dedicated journalists and the justice system to continue holding the governor and CYFD accountable for ethical conduct, transparency and continuous improvement of services to protect and support New Mexico’s children and families.” The Gilmores say they believe their whistleblowing contributed to CYFD no longer using Signal; Blalock’s departure; and a project worth “up to $80 million in New Mexico taxpayer dollars being opened fairly to public bid,” according to one witness.
NM SOS disputes report finding high election official turnover
More than 50% of New Mexico’s election officials are new since the 2020 election, according to a new report that assesses such turnover among Western states. The Washington, DC-based “cross-partisan political reform” group Issue One found in a new regional case study that New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah all had more than half of their senior officials change since the 2020 election, specifically 52% of counties in New Mexico have new leadership in elections administration. According to the report, 36% of New Mexicans will have the 2024 election administered by someone different than in 2020. “These turnover rates signify a crisis in our democracy,” Issue One Founder and CEO Nick Penniman said in a statement. “The health and vibrancy of election administrators are essential to ensuring free and fair elections in our country. Congress should heed the call of America’s election officials and deliver regular funding and stronger protections for election workers, and law enforcement agencies should intensify their efforts to hold accountable those that threaten the dedicated officials who help Americans make their voices heard at the ballot box.” New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who has gone to court, testified to Congress and backed state legislation to protect elections, said in a statement provided to SFR that she concurs “election official turnover is an important issue” and her office is “glad this report is raising awareness.” Nonetheless, she said, “we have not seen an excessive amount of turnover in New Mexico. The turnover we have seen in New Mexico since 2020 is the result of some new clerks winning election, some clerks retiring, and some being term-limited. In many counties as well, the new clerk was the previous deputy, for example, so they still bring ample experience to the job. Some counties in New Mexico continue to struggle to find poll workers—especially in the small, rural communities and places where one party dominates (and thus it’s hard to find poll workers of a different or no party)—so we encourage anyone who wants to get involved to contact their county clerks about poll worker opportunities.”
The state Early Childhood Education and Care Department has wrapped Season one of The Early Show with Alax, an online series for New Mexico families with young children, featuring Santa Fe puppeteer Devon Ludlow as the show’s intergalactic ambassador. According to ECECD, the show— part of a large-scale state public awareness and resource campaign called Moments Together—has generated 5.6 million views to date and gained more than 20,000 new subscribers on YouTube. Season one included guest experts on sleep, children’s feelings, growth and development, the power of play, the importance of nutrition and how young children learn language. View a video recap here or catch up on the whole season on The Early Show with Alax website.
Waiting on fall colors
One potentially bright side to the long hot summer: better leaf peeping. The New York Times reports the stress of extreme weather can cause trees to shed their leaves early but also create brighter colors. As for places “to bask in spectacular foliage this fall,” the Times includes the Cibola National Forest and Grasslands in its roundup of five primo locales, while noting that the area’s four “sky islands” will have some competition this year from the annular eclipse. Nonetheless, folks may have additional time to view the foliage, according to US Forest Service local meteorologist Kerry Jones, who tells the Times the drought may delay the changing leaves by a few weeks, “giving visitors a little more time to catch the oranges of Gambel oak, yellows of New Mexico locust and those gleaming aspens.” The Times also recommends the 2.7-mile Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, which “whisks visitors up rocky cliffs and past mountain peaks sprinkled with reds and yellows.” The Travel also includes Taos, well known for its fall colors, in its list of the 10 “underrated US destinations” to see fall foliage. Closer to home and possibly actually underrated, Ski Santa Fe’s fall chairlift rides run weekends through Oct. 16.
When darkness falls
Forbes magazine self-described “eclipse journalist” Jamie Carter includes Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta as one of the top places to view the Oct. 14 annular solar eclipse and the “ring of fire.” Indeed, Jayne Aubele an adult educator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, tells Space.com: “Albuquerque is going to be ‘ground zero’ for the annular and it’s the perfect place to see it. The sun will be fairly high in the sky and it happens on the last Saturday of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.” That being said, Space.com points out other spots in the state that will provide ample eclipse viewing, including Aztec Ruins National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historic Park and, yes, Santa Fe. Speaking of which, the Santa Fe Public Library will be hosting a series of solar eclipse events, including two upcoming programs for school children from 3:30 to 4:30 pm, Friday, Sept. 29 at the Southside Library and 1 to 2 pm, Saturday, Sept. 30 at the Main branch. Also on Saturday, from 2 to 3 pm, the Southside Library will host an all-ages informational session on the 2023 eclipse, followed by an actual viewing party from 10 am to noon on the big day, Oct. 14 at the Southside branch.
The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 82 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. The Santa Fe National Forest yesterday reported updates on the 2,227-acre Golondrino prescribed fire in the Cuba district, where officials anticipate operations will continue through today; the Forest Service postponed the 2,227-acre Rincon prescribed fire in the Coyote Ranger District until tomorrow, pending favorable weather conditions.
Thanks for reading! The Word is perusing The Atlantic magazine’s presentation of the winners from this year’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, run by Royal Observatory Greenwich (view more at the exhibition website).