Morning Word

Councilor Garcia Calls for Vote on City Manager’s Job

Australian hydrogen company announces NM expansion

Councilor Lee Garcia calls for vote to terminate Blair

Citing Santa Fe code regarding ethics, District 3 City Councilor Lee Garcia at last night’s Council meeting called for a future vote on City Manager John Blair’s employment. Garcia said the governing body is obligated to “provide consequences” when staff violate ethical standards and later made a specific request to the mayor to schedule an executive session discussion followed by a vote on terminating Blair at the next council meeting. The city charter allows the council to remove or suspend the manager with a vote of six members at a regularly scheduled governing body meeting. Garcia’s request followed Blair’s apology earlier in the meeting, at which he once again expressed regret for withholding information about a Department of Finance Administration Aug. 23 letter to Mayor Alan Webber that advises the state will continue to withhold legislative appropriations until the city completes its late audits. Blair revealed the letter just in advance of its publication in the daily newspaper, a decision some councilors have continued to criticize. Blair issued a statement Sept. 29 apologizing for the action, then said Wednesday he realized he should do so publicly in person. While Mayor Alan Webber did not commit to a future vote on Blair, as is his purview, he did reiterate talking points regarding the city’s need for transparency. “It’s not just a matter of a letter from DFA, although I think that letter could’ve been handled better, it was a mistake,” Webber said. “It has been labeled a mistake and owned up to as a mistake. I would say there are differences in errors: there are errors of judgment, and there are errors of character. I don’t think this is an ethics violation, I think this was a badly-handled piece of information and won’t be repeated.”

Australia hydrogen company announces NM move

Australian-based hydrogen company Star Scientific will open its first North American operation in Albuquerque, the company’s Global Group Chair Andrew Horvath and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced yesterday from Sydney. “From the very earliest conversations, the officials in New Mexico outlined their long-term commitment to hydrogen and the benefits of their state for a company such as Star Scientific,” Horvath said in a statement. “We were impressed by their whole-of-government approach to manufacturing, logistics, higher education and research and their vision for the role that hydrogen will play in their future.” A letter of intent signed by the company yesterday “commits Star Scientific to an intensive process of planning and negation of a site for a joint research and mass manufacturing facility in the Mesa del Sol district of Albuquerque,” a news release details. The company wants to acquire up to 50 acres and invest $100 million into New Mexico, constructing seven to 10 buildings, and hire up to 200 employees. Negotiations are ongoing with the state Economic Development Department regarding potential incentives, officials say. The announcement marks the latest foray by Lujan Grisham to establish hydrogen facilities in the state. Her legislative attempts to pass a Hydrogen Hub Act fizzled out last year in the face of environmental opposition. Earlier this month, the Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub LLC—developed last year between New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, failed to receive federal funding for its proposal.

State seeks outstanding cannabis biz tax returns

The state Taxation and Revenue Department reported yesterday that over the summer it had begun contacting cannabis retail license holders who hadn’t filed tax returns. According to a news release, more than 100 license holders have not yet complied, although some may hold multiple licenses for different locations. Adult-use recreational cannabis sales are subject to both Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) and Cannabis Excise Tax; retailers can only renew their licenses with the state Regulation and Licensing Department if they are in good standing with their taxes. “Cannabis is a relatively new industry with many new players who may be struggling to get their businesses up and running,” Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said in a statement. “We are here to assist taxpayers to voluntarily comply with the tax law, but cannabis retailers must also make a good faith effort to comply.” Officials say 80 retailers have come into compliance since the outreach effort began. Tax and Rev is working with the Regulation and Licensing Department to “confirm which license holders are actually operating, and both agencies may perform in person compliance checks,” the news release notes. As of September, 2023, Tax & Rev says it has distributed more than $47 million in Cannabis Excise Tax revenue to the state general fund and to local governments.

Early/absentee voting off to strong start

As the Nov. 7 Election Day creeps closer, more than 4,300 Santa Fe voters have already cast and mailed ballots—a figure trending toward a record number for the county. Most voters who have already cast ballots did so during last weekend’s rollout of in-person locations across Santa Fe County, but the flow of voters into County Clerk Katharine E. Clark’s office has also increased in recent days, she tells SFR. “I think it definitely picked up,” Clark says. “We’re seeing around the noon hour it gets really busy, and then you get this kind of quiet between 1 pm and 4 pm, and then as we get towards the end the day you see a little busier again.” Approximately 61,100 registered voters are eligible to cast ballots in the city for four City Council seats, the municipal judge, a proposed high-end housing excise tax and proposed amendments to the city charter. Seats for the Santa Fe Community College and Santa Fe Public Schools board as well as financing questions for both entities appear on ballots for some voters outside the city limits. Clark says 5,864 voters requested absentee mail-in ballots by the Oct. 24 deadline, and 936 have been returned so far. In 2019, which was also a city election year featuring council races, 2,458 people voted by mail. These numbers, she says, point to “an upward trend” in mail-in ballots and what could be a large portion of Santa Feans using the voting method this year. According to the real-time portal from the office, so far, 3,450 people have cast ballots in person. Read SFR’s complete election coverage here.

Listen up

Tis the season for Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer (yes, we gravitate toward the ironic horror movies that incorporate meta-commentary on adolescence and society). But what else can we learn from our scary stories? On the most recent episode of the University of New Mexico’s It’s (Probably) Not Rocket Science podcast, “Spooky Folklore and the Psychology of Horror,” Gabino Noriega, a doctoral candidate in UNM’s Department of Chicano and Chicana Studies, tells the stories of La Llorona and the Devil at the Dance, and their importance in New Mexico culture. And Department of Psychology Associate professor David Witherington explains how people develop fear as children; delineates the differences between horror and fear; and talks about “how horror films can offer a sense of catharsis.”

Skate on

The prospect of long-distance skateboarding sounded so appealing to Moondog Roop that he taught himself how to skateboard in order to embark on adventures of his own. That was on his 33rd birthday in 2019. In 2022, he skated across Florida, meeting up with fellow “thru-skater” Justin Bright. From there, the pair took on New Mexico, which is how Roop ended up living here. “I’d actually never been to New Mexico before we started skating it,” Roop tells SFR. “And then along the way, we went across Madrid and I just fell in love with it and moved there about three months later.” The duo’s most recent adventure involved skating 440 miles across the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail becoming, Roop says, the first thru-skaters to tackle a National Scenic Trail. The sport, he notes, requires skateboarding ability, but also endurance and a comparable set of skills to thru-backpacking: the ability to travel light and camp. He and Bright hope others embark on similar quests. “I think now that someone has skated it, we’re really getting into the idea that it would be a good trail for someone to see how fast can it be done,” he says. “Justin and I are never going to break any speed records, but we just really like the idea that it’s very skate-able.” Thayne Nord, owner of Santa Fe outdoor used and new outdoor recreation shop Tourist (376 Garcia St., Suite A) also liked the sound of it and sponsored Roop and Bright’s trip. Tourist focuses on lightweight and high-quality gear. In addition: “I guess the defining trait of the shop is celebrating outdoor recreation a little bit differently than it’s spoon-fed from the large corporate stores, where it’s often about accomplishing a thing, climbing a peak, conquest,” Nord tells SFR, “rather than traveling through it [and] the adventure being part of the destination.” Thru-hikers, he notes, “have figured out a lot of adventuring outdoors, so it seems natural there would be off-shoots.” That being said: “This is the first I’d seen.”

Step into the light

While people don’t seem to need encouragement to visit Santa Fe, they can rest assured the plaudits keep on coming. In this case, Frommer’s includes the city in its list of the “best places to go in 2024,” noting that: “The long saga of life on Earth frequently goes through rough spots in the narrative, but even in the story’s darkest passages, bright spots always abound.” In the case of Santa Fe’s role as a bright spot in the increasingly dark narrative of human existence, Frommer’s makes specific mention of Zozobra’s 100th anniversary next year, as well as the new Vladem Contemporary; next year’s inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week in May; and a new gallery show at the Indigenous Art Fair Contemporary that “launches in August 2024 with the aim of being the Art Basel of Native American art.” Frommer’s also recognizes the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado eight-hour Tsi’pin Ruins Tour, which it initiated last August, which “pairs guests with a geologist and archaeologist to discuss artifacts and explore ancient Indigenous dwellings built around the year 1175.” Four Seasons also offers yoga/hiking/meditation excursions to Plaza Blanca, “an area so dreamy it was Georgia O’Keeffe’s go-to canyon for inspiration.” The 15 spots on the list offer a mix of national and international locales (Panama City sounds fun).

Easy, breezy

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 66 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the morning.

Thanks for reading! The Word can’t believe she almost missed Smokey Robinson’s Tiny Desk concert. Pfew!

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