Morning Word

Police Seek Suspect in Santa Fe Double Homicide

Report: Despite funding, NM special ed continues to struggle

Police seek double-homicide suspect

As of press time early Wednesday morning, 44-year-old Jose Antonio “Adrian” Roman remained at large and faced 16 felony charges in the fatal Monday night shooting of his ex-girlfriend Carmen Navarrate de Gonzales and her 15-year-old son at their Santa Fe home located off West Alameda Street near N.M. 599. Law enforcement advised local residents yesterday morning Roman had eluded officers on foot and was “armed and extremely dangerous.” Before Monday’s alleged shooting, Roman already faced charges of domestic violence against Navarrate de Gonzales, and she had a protective order against him. The arrest affidavit from Monday night’s shooting says four witnesses were in the home at the time of the shooting: Navarrate de Gonzales’s daughters: Ana and Priscilla; Priscilla’s boyfriend Eduardo Ramirez; and an unnamed 17-year-old daughter. Priscilla and Ramirez’s infant son also was in the home, as was a 1-year-old female child. In interviews with police, all three of the daughters and Ramirez identified the suspect and confirmed a history of domestic disputes between Roman and Navarrate de Gonzales. Police were initially notified of potential harm to Navarrate de Gonzales by Roman’s son, who contacted Albuquerque Police to ask for a welfare check for her after his father showed up intoxicated at his Albuquerque home Monday night and took a shotgun from the premises.

Report shows ongoing struggles with special education

Progress in serving New Mexico’s roughly 68,000 special education students remains somewhat elusive, according to a progress report delivered yesterday to the Legislative Finance Committee (right around the 10:54 am timestamp). “Although the educational and financial landscape has shifted over the past” decade, the report notes, “many of the issues surrounding special education revealed in LFC’s 2013 program evaluation remain.” In fiscal year 2024, public schools will receive approximately $716 million in state funding and $119 million in federal funding; yet, New Mexico “remains in the bottom third of states for special education student proficiency measures,” the report says. Public schools are also not fully using their state and federal special education funds, and still face a shortage of special education teachers. Moreover, public schools have 1,300 teachers with special education licenses teaching general education despite hundreds of special education vacancies. The report notes the court noted a lack of adequate oversight over special education as part of the Yazzie Martinez lawsuit, and that New Mexico’s percentage of students with disabilities has grown and ranks 13th highest in the US. Earlier this year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham by executive order turned the Public Education Department special education division into an Office of Special Education; its new director, Margaret Cage, told lawmakers yesterday it was her 30th day on the job and she’s “definitely had my ears on the ground” and been speaking with everyone in the educational system. “I can’t tell you anyone I’ve met who doesn’t want to do what’s right for children,” she said.

Ethics board to take up pending city election complaints

The City of Santa Fe’s Ethics and Campaign Review Board will meet at 3 pm tomorrow for the first time since March to evaluate three complaints filed against Santa Fe City Council candidates in the Nov. 7 local election. Retired state employee Arcy Baca filed all three complaints against District 1 candidate Geno Zamora, District 2 candidate Phil Lucero and Pilar Faulkner, who won her race in District 3, and alleges in each case the candidates’ campaign finance reports “did not adhere to the stipulation of segregating individual expenses as mandated by the regulation.” The complaints also name the candidates’ campaign managers, and specifically target expenditures on the Oct. 31 campaign finance reports, which Baca alleges violate the city’s campaign finance laws, which stipulate “political campaign contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy in the sources and application of such contributions be avoided.” He tells SFR he filed the complaints because he was “kind of disappointed these people don’t go more for public financing.” Of 10 candidates, six conducted private fundraising. “This guy’s ‘I got this money from the top,’ I believe it’s kinda like they’re cheating. It’s not right. It’s a small community. Don’t do that. Play fair,” Baca says. Zamora and Lucero’s campaign manager Sandra Wechsler filed a response for her clients asking the board to dismiss the complaints, as did Faulkner.

NM personal tax rebates ranks #1 for tax expenditures

Last summer’s special tax rebates based on residents’ 2021 personal income tax returns reduced state revenue by more than $694 million, the state Tax Department reported yesterday as part of its newly released 2023 Tax Expenditure Report—the largest such expenditure. Officials will present the report on Nov. 20 to the Legislature’s Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee. Following the tax rebates, the Gross Receipts Tax deduction for groceries, along with “hold harmless” distributions to municipalities and counties, ranked as the next largest expenditure at nearly $444 million. “This year’s report shows we are continuing to make progress improving our tax code, especially for middle class New Mexicans and our most vulnerable residents,” Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said in a statement. Other top expenditures, as delineated by the Tax and Rev department in a news release, include the GRT deduction for prescription drugs, oxygen and medical cannabis; ($392.5 million in FY23); the 60% GRT deduction for Department of Health licensed hospitals ($196 million); the Personal Income Tax capital gains deduction ($114 million); the Film and Television Credit ($100 million); and the Working Families Tax Credit ($93.8 million). The new Personal Income Tax exemption for Social Security benefits for most recipients reduced revenue by $71.4 million in fiscal year 2023, the department notes.

Listen up

Big Think podcast host Kmele Foster visits the Santa Fe Institute for a video cast on what the show calls a “playground for geniuses,” talking with several SFI scientists described as “some of the most eccentric and genius minds in our world today.” That includes SFI President David Krakauer, who shows Foster a rocket minus an engine on the campus, saying: “Scientific institutions, especially mathematical ones, can feel a little bit forbidding, and many people’s experience have has been traumatic. But I think if you drive up to SFI and you see this absurd rocket that could never fly—I think it just, it makes you feel slightly more at ease.”

NM-filmed series The Curse draws strong responses

Showtime’s new series The Curse filmed in New Mexico earlier this year and is, in fact, set in New Mexico. To wit: “Whitney and Asher Siegel are a newlywed couple struggling to bring their vision for eco-conscious housing to the small community of Española, New Mexico. But their efforts are complicated when an eccentrically flawed reality TV producer, Dougie, sees opportunity in their story. As the series unfolds, the couple find themselves caught in a mysterious web of ethical and moral gray zones—all while trying to keep their relationship afloat.” Reviews of the show, starring Emma Stone, Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie (and created by the latter two) have been coming in droves and all sound vaguely similar. Slate calls it excruciating, noting “the urban hipsters who would be Whitney and Asher’s ideal buyers don’t exactly flock to grungy Española, but the simple act of building the houses has already affected the local economy, displacing current residents without drawing new ones.” The New York Times says the “breathtaking, uncomfortable series takes home-renovation TV into the heart of darkness,” noting “there is a creeping sense of racial tension and condescension around the Siegels, who are disrupting a largely Latino and Native American community in the name of saving it. They recite land acknowledgments at their construction sites while filling their houses with Native art they got on bulk discount.” The New Yorker begins its review by opining that “the mirrored exteriors of the houses for sale…are the first hint of the series’ interest in distortion. They reflect nearby trees and the clear New Mexico sky—an illusion that leads some unsuspecting birds to an untimely death.” Variety calls it the “most uncomfortable show of the year,” one that “forces us to sit in the awkward silence as Asher and Whitney try to sell both the working-class community of Española (an actual small city outside Santa Fe) and the viewing public on their ultra-modern, eco-friendly homes,” while “intimate mind games among awful people play out against a backdrop of much broader social issues, from gentrification to Indigenous rights.” That being said, The Guardian awards The Curse five stars and says the “cringe-worthy drama is like nothing else on TV.”

New Mexico getaways

American Express Travel’s annual Trending Destinations includes Santa Fe on its list of 2024 locales named by its legions of travel consultants as hot spots for travelers who want to visit new places. The list “provides inspiration for just these types of trips by identifying some of the world’s most visited places” along with “an off-the-beaten-path alternative” for each. “People have become incredibly purposeful about the trips they take,” American Express Travel President Audrey Hendley tells Travel + Leisure about the company’s list. “Travelers are building vacations around their passions, knowing what they want to get out of a trip. These passions are drawing people to new itineraries and bringing them to new destinations, beyond the traditional hot spots.” Santa Fe, specifically, is identified as an alternative place to visit for folks who like Sedona, Arizona, which, “with its red rock landscapes and vibrant art scene, has long been a popular vacation spot in the American Southwest. Just a state away, Santa Fe, New Mexico beckons with its own blend of culture, history, and natural beauty.” House Beautiful, however, picks Taos for its list of “30 charming towns for the perfect fall getaway.” New Mexico, the magazine writes, “might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of a fall retreat, but the small desert town of Taos is a sight to behold. Home to beautiful foliage that only gets more beautiful as fall continues, you’ll forget you’re in New Mexico.”

Sun, wind, repeat

The National Weather Service forecasts another mostly sunny day, with a high temperature near 62 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. No fog for us!

Thanks for reading! The Word loved all the wildlife photos in National Geographic’s 2023 roundup, but maybe Fatu, one of the world’s two remaining northern white rhinoceroses, most of all.

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