Morning Word

NM Supreme Court Affirms Democrats’ Congressional Map

Santa Fe youth soccer advocates kick off “moonshot” campaign

State Supreme Court affirms redistricting decision

Following oral arguments last week in a congressional redistricting lawsuit, the state Supreme Court yesterday affirmed Ninth Judicial District Judge Fred Van Soelen’s Oct. 6 ruling in Democrats’ favor in the Republican-led litigation. Van Soelen found while Democrat lawmakers had indeed participated in active attempts to “dilute the votes” of Republicans in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, their efforts had not constituted “egregious gerrymandering,” as outlined by the state Supreme Court in advance of the hearing using US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s “three-part test,” from her dissenting opinion in 2019′s Rucho v. Common Cause. In yesterday’s order, which is not a precedent-setting opinion, the court said the district ruling was supported by facts and had committed no legal error. “We are glad that the State Supreme Court ordered that the District Court’s redistricting decision will be upheld, hopefully putting to rest months of frivolous distractions from Steve Pearce’s New Mexico Republican Party,” the state Democratic Party says in a statement. “Now that this matter is finally resolved, both parties can focus on what matters—reaching voters and serving New Mexicans.” The state Republican Party, however, issued a statement saying it “is contemplating our next course of action in conference with our legal team,” and described itself as disappointed by the “ruling to uphold the gerrymandered map that disenfranchises the voices of conservative Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike and divides up vital industries.”

NM outdoor economy keeps growing

New data from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis shows the outdoor recreation sector’s growing impact on the national and local economy. Nationally, BEA reports outdoor recreation generates $1.1 trillion in economic output—2.2% of the gross domestic product—4.98 million jobs and comprises 3.2% of US employees. New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy grew 1.8% from 2021 to 2022; had $2.4 billion in value added for the state; and accounts for 1.9% of state GDP, including nearly 28,000 jobs. The state created its Outdoor Recreation Division in 2019; ORD, which is part of the state Economic Development Department, has a variety of programs and grants aimed at boosting the sector. “The BEA data validates the ongoing efforts of New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division to create jobs through the Trails+ grant program, support economic growth, and offer equitable access to the outdoors through the first-of-its-kind Outdoor Equity Fund,” ORD Director Karina Armijo says in a statement. “Based on the data, we can affirm these outdoor recreation-focused programs benefit all New Mexicans and outdoor recreation businesses throughout the state.” According to the state, since its creation, ORD has invested $10 million in trails and infrastructure projects and awarded Outdoor Equity grants to 181 organizations allowing more than 58,000 youths to experience recreational activities. “Every corner of our state benefits from the overall efforts to bolster access to the outdoors for all New Mexicans,” Acting New Mexico Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Jon Clark says in a statement. “The outdoor recreation industry is a consistent economic and jobs driver, even in times of economic uncertainty.”

Missing the buses

Santa Fe Public Schools students are facing long bus rides and—at least the day SFR rode the bus—late arrivals following the district’s consolidation of routes in order to address an ongoing bus driver shortage. The luckier students simply catch rides from their parents instead—such as Mandela International Magnet School sophomore Robin Hickerson, who initiated a survey of her peers to gauge their reactions to the consolidated schedules: “The decision to remove the buses for high schoolers is idiotic,” wrote one. Another, who lives on the Southside, hopes the district hires more bus drivers soon so “we don’t have to drive around Santa Fe for almost an hour.” Hickerson says she can get to school in 20 minutes in a parent’s car, versus a minimum of an hour and a half on the bus. “I’m lucky because I have that option, but there’s a ton of kids who don’t have a dependable car or can’t drive at all,” she tells SFR. SFPS Transportation Director Cesario Flores in turn says hiring drivers has been an ongoing battle since COVID-19. Two years ago, the district had 65 bus routes. Now, it has 32, with only 30 drivers on staff to complete them. “We’re not trying to cause any pain or inconvenience to families…we just can’t sustain all routes,” Flores says.

Kicking in

As SFR recently reported, City of Santa Fe ordinances currently prioritize adult use at the west-side Municipal Recreation Complex, but District 4 Councilor Jamie Cassutt is pushing for a policy change that would allow youth teams the same chance of reserving playing time. Cassutt’s ordinance is slated for a public hearing during tomorrow night’s regular City Council meeting. The change would have no fiscal impact, the city says, but would create more efficiency and responsiveness in assigning fields, given “an increase in demand from youth organizations seeking access to the MRC and increased requests from adult leagues for citywide fields,” a city memo on the proposal notes. The proposition coincides with a new fundraising initiative announced yesterday by Northern Soccer Club Executive Director Scott Hussion: the Mucho Soccer campaign, intended to address the dearth of playing fields (just five for 1,800 youth players, Hussion says). The city recently announced it intends to use $1.5 million of unexpected gross receipts tax revenue for soccer facilities ($1 million for the Salvador Perez Park field and $500,000 to begin phase two design plans for the MRC expansion project). Hussion calls that investment “a great start. But the truth is we need a moonshot for soccer—and we’re hoping this is finally our year.” The campaign includes a petition, as well as opportunities to volunteer and donate.

Listen up

As November’s Native American Heritage Month comes to a close, New Mexico In Focus highlights several key issues facing Indigenous people, including the state’s disbandment of its Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force and threats to Chaco Canyon and the surrounding landscape from oil and gas mining. Guests include reporter Bella Davis (Yurok), who broke the story about the task force, along with several of its former members and advocates. Correspondent Antonia Gonzales (Navajo) interviews Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) about Chaco Canyon.

Settling in

Matthew Cruickshank, the current art lead at Google, talks to Irish media publication Image about his career—he formerly worked for Warner Brothers and Disney—his life in the US since moving here from the United Kingdom 12 years ago and his daily life in Santa Fe, where he relocated this year from San Francisco—a move he describes as the biggest risk he’s taken thus far in his career. “You have to follow your gut instinct and roll the dice,” Cruickshank tells Image. As for daily life: He wakes when the sun rises because the bedroom lacks curtains, lets the dog out of the garage, takes the dog on a bike ride to a local unnamed cafe: “He runs by my side always on the lookout for rabbits,” Cruickshank says. As for the work day, the office is just a few feet from the house. He works “in concentrated bursts. You can get a whole day’s work completed in 3 hours if you disappear down a creative rabbit hole. Being an artist is not, and should never be, 9-5.” Cruickshank, by the way, was one of the winner’s last summer of SFR’s annual Illustrator’s Cup competition for his work “Shedding Skin,” which he described as his “initial reaction” to moving to Santa Fe: “That’s how I felt,” Cruickshank told SFR, “like I’d shed my own skin and manifested into something new.”

Best of the West

Several New Mexico institutions receive mention in Denver magazine 5280′s December Best of the West edition. New Mexico Museum of Art’s new Vladem Contemporary appears in the art category, both for its focus on exhibiting contemporary (living) artists, as well as for its amplification of “creators from diverse cultural backgrounds who were largely excluded from older styles, such as the modern art movement extending from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.” Restoration Pizza, meanwhile, which expanded its Albuquerque operations to the Santa Fe Railyard this year, warrants inclusion in the food and drink section as one of the region’s best for its pizza and its emphasis on recruiting employees with disabilities. “Hopefully, our model encourages others in Albuquerque and Santa Fe to adopt more diverse hiring practices,” co-owner and Chief Operating Officer Jess Griego says. Finally, MEA—formerly known as Modern Elder Academy—”the world’s first midlife wisdom school” merits in the lodging category. MEA opened a resort in Mexico in 2018 and is slated to open its 2,600-acre Santa Fe campus in March 2024.

The calm before the (possible) storm

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 42 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph. Enjoy the sunshine: More weather may be on the way at the end of the week.

Thanks for reading! The Word has unintentionally been listening to a whole lotta flute rock.

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