Morning Word

Council Nixes City Manager Suspension

Gov. Lujan Grisham and team head to COP28

Council nixes manager suspension

The Santa Fe City Council last night rejected a proposed three-day suspension for City Manager John Blair, following a closed-door discussion in executive session. Mayor Alan Webber this week visited SFR and other media in advance of the vote during last night’s regular council meeting (right around the 7:48 mark) to advocate against the suspension, which he characterized as unproductive. The resolution proposing the suspension, from City Councilors Lee Garcia and Chris Rivera, followed learning Blair had not disclosed to the council in a timely way an August letter to the mayor from the state Department of Finance Administration regarding the state’s plans to continue withholding capital outlay funds for projects pending the city’s completion of late audits. Garcia tells SFR he called for Blair’s suspension in response to “being kept in the dark,” and said the letter’s contents included answers to questions councilors asked at previous meetings. Blair subsequently apologized for withholding the letter. Webber, during his meeting with SFR, said Blair did not share the letter largely because it did not contain new information, and noted he hadn’t heard in advance of the meeting from Rivera or Garcia as to “what they think the grievance really is that causes them to want an executive session to talk about the suspension, nor is there real clarity in my mind as to why this would warrant a suspension.” Councilor Michael Garcia joined the bill’s sponsors in voting for the suspension; the rest of the council and the mayor voted against its approval.

NM Gov and team head to COP28

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham headed to the United Arab Emirates yesterday to attend and participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference, aka COP28, in Dubai. Deputy Chief Operating Officer Caroline Buerkle and Environment Secretary James Kenney are traveling with the governor; all three will participate in panel discussions and public events, as well as meet with “climate leaders from around the globe,” the governor’s office says in a news release. Specifically, the governor will participate in a panel discussion titled: “Ambitious and Just: Climate Innovation and Action by US States, Cities and Regions,” taking place at 1:30 am MST, Dec. 2 at the US Center (available via livestream). Kenney will be on a Dec. 3 panel (at 3 am MST) titled: “All Hands on Deck: How the US Climate Alliance is Securing America’s Net-Zero Future with State-Led, High-Impact Action,” (available via the America is All in Action Center livestream) for which Lujan Grisham will deliver the opening remarks. Other panel participants for the Dec. 3 panel include White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, Maryland Environment Secretary Serena McIlwain, California Energy Commission Chair David Hochschild and Alliance Executive Director Casey Katims. According to the governor’s office, Lujan Grisham also will “participate in a major federal announcement” on Dec. 2, “and announce a significant new water initiative” in the evening on Dec. 4, with more details forthcoming.

Report: NM should curb alcohol industry’s influence

Over the last decade, the alcohol industry—its lobbyists, PACs, allied organizations and individuals—spent $2.62 million on political activities in New Mexico, such as campaign contributions and wining/dining lawmakers and top officials. The calculations come from good government group Common Cause New Mexico in a new report: Still Under the Influence, a “connect the dots” assessment of the alcohol industry’s potential influence on state lawmakers. The top statewide recipients between 2013 and spring 2023 were Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, former Gov. Susana Martinez and Attorney General Raul Torrez. Top legislative recipients during the same time period were former House Republican Leader Rep. Nate Gentry, Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, and Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces. According to the report, since 1990, of the 141 bills introduced to alter alcohol excise taxes, only 16 have become law, with only one representing a meaningful tax increase. At the same time, New Mexico ranks highest in the US for alcohol related deaths. Common Cause’s recommendations, among other measures, include a two-year moratorium for legislators and public officials between their positions and working as lobbyists; recusal by legislators when family members are lobbying; and salaries for lawmakers to reduce dependence on lobbyists for meals and such. In a statement, Common Cause Outreach and Development Director Shannon Kunkel notes that “the correlations found here between campaign contributions and voting behavior do not imply that legislators are trading votes for campaign contributions or fancy dinners…nonetheless, the overall amount of alcohol money spent on leadership, committee members and candidates alone can erode trust in government at a time when the New Mexico public already believes that powerful interest groups and lobbyists have more influence on elected officials than the voters.”

US Sen. Heinrich introduces gun legislation

Congressional sponsors describe the The GOSAFE Act (Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion) as a “commonsense proposal designed to protect communities from gun violence, while safeguarding Americans’ constitutional right to own a firearm for legitimate self-defense, hunting and sporting purposes.” In broad strokes, the bill proposes regulating “firearms based on the inherently dangerous and unusual lethality of their internal mechanisms.” US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, a lead sponsor of the legislation announced this morning, says in a statement he is introducing the GOSAFE Act because “our country is reeling from a gun violence crisis that has taken far too many lives in New Mexico and across this country…Like many New Mexicans, I am a gun owner. I firmly believe we must uphold the laws that protect safe and responsible gun ownership. This bill achieves that, while taking steps to get those firearms that are inherently dangerous and unusually lethal, designed for maximum harm, out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves or others.” Among its other provisions, the bill would create a list of prohibited firearms; prevent unlawful modifications of permissible firearms; mandate future gas-operated designs are approved before manufacturing; and prevent unlawful firearm self-assembly and manufacturing. According to a news release, the bill’s backers include numerous organizations, as well as law enforcement officials. “The Gas Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion Act will help keep our communities safer from gun violence,” New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence Co-President Miranda Viscoli says in a statement. “These highly lethal firearms have no business being in civilian hands. We applaud Senator Heinrich for having the courage to introduce this life-saving legislation.” Heinrich and co-sponsor US Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, will be holding a joint news conference on the bill later today.

Listen up

Two episodes of the University of New Mexico’s It’s (Probably) Not Rocket Science podcast tackle issues related to language and culture. Episode 5, “How do you put words to Spanish heritage?” examines the challenges of keeping Spanish as a heritage language alive in the US. Episode 6 delves into how babies learn Navajo and features Saad K’idilyé, “a Navajo language nest located in Albuquerque working to provide Navajo families with a place where their babies can be cared for and immersed in the Navajo language all day long.”

NM’s leaping lesbian lizard

New Mexico’s official state reptile, in case you were wondering, is the New Mexico Whiptail (Cnemidophorus neomexianus), first recognized in a specimen collected in Socorro County in 1947. Gov. Bill Richardson signed House Bill 13 into law on April 6, 2003 making the NM Whiptail the official state reptile (and the bizcochito the official state cookie, among other other actions). But according to High Country News, New Mexico’s state lizard has another identity: as a gay icon. First off, HCN notes, “all members of the lizard species are female and reproduce asexually through a process called parthenogenesis.” As such, writer Miles W. Griffis details, the New Mexico Whiptail has been nicknamed the “leaping lesbian lizard,” inspiring “art, comics, a Pokémon named Salazzle and shelves of online merchandise—even the name of an ultimate frisbee team at Wellesley College. One sticker sold on Etsy portrays two lizards in the seven colors of the Sunset Lesbian Pride Flag, their tails curled in the shape of a love heart.” Griffis sets the scene vividly when he encounters the leaping lesbian lizard while visiting Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú, and also talks with scientists about the ins and outs of reptile parthenogenesis, as well as the broader impacts of queer biology.

NM Indigenous creators among new NAMA fellows

Two Indigenous New Mexico filmmakers are among the newly announced eight fellows for the Native American Media Alliance’s fifth Native American Animation Lab, Deadline magazine reports. Charine Pilar Gonzales, a Tewa filmmaker from San Ildefonso Pueblo and Santa Fe, premiered her short documentary Our Quiyo: Maria Martinez (2022) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; it was acquired by AT&T and Comcast Xfinity. Her debut narrative fiction short film, River Bank (Pō-Kehgeh), currently on the film festival circuit, “centers on a Tewa woman who is mesmerized by a world of money and must listen to the spirit of the River in order to free herself.” Graphic designer and animator Alex Vallo (Pueblo of Acoma) works as a media specialist for the Pueblo of Santa Ana and “combines his love for design with a deep appreciation for representing his indigenous culture.” He began “exploring motion graphics by creating lyric videos for friends’ music” in 2016, gaining some popularity on YouTube and leading Vallo “to expand his repertoire and create motion graphics for popular songs, attracting a wider audience.” In a statement, Ian Skorodin (Choctaw), director of strategy for the Native American Media Alliance, said of the new fellows: “Native American storytelling continues to provide groundbreaking television series and films with animation at the forefront. This lab has bolstered our community’s presence in this arena and we are excited to bring forth a new cohort of artists.”

Sap checked with frost and lusty leaves quite gone

Santa Fe wakes up to snow today, with Santa Fe Public Schools closed for the day and city offices, libraries and rec centers opening late at 10 am. The National Weather Service forecasts a 100% chance for more snow showers, mainly before 11am, and “patchy freezing fog between 8am and 11am.” Look for accumulation of one to two inches, perhaps, with a high temperature near 34 degrees and south wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. We may see more scattered snow showers overnight, as well, and into Friday.

Thanks for reading! The Word has only just started the Española Showtime drama The Curse, but must mention the first episode includes a shout-out for SFR; and Emma Stone’s performance is included in the New Yorker’s top 10 performances of the year.

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