City hosts jobs symposium today
Following its acceptance last June into the National League of Cities and the Department of Labor’s Good Jobs’ Great Cities Academy, the City of Santa Fe is scheduled to host a “Good Jobs, Great Cities Symposium” from 9 am to 3:30 pm today at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. The event will include panels on workshop innovation; public partnerships; community partnerships; and plans going forward, among other topics, with speakers from local startups; Santa Fe Community College; Santa Fe Public Schools; local nonprofits; the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the state Department of Workforce Solutions, among many others. The symposium follows the Department of Workforce Solutions’ release on Friday of the full labor market review for October 2023, which shows the most recent labor data for New Mexico counties and the state as a whole. According to the report, Santa Fe, at 3.5%, had the lowest not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among the state’s metropolitan statistical areas, but Santa Fe and Albuquerque tied for the largest increase—0.6 percentage points—since October 2022. New Mexico’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 3.8%, represents a slow increase by 0.3 percentage points over the five months prior, and was just under the national unemployment rate of 3.9%.
NM influences new national methane rules
Over the weekend, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham accompanied members of the Biden administration at COP28—the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference—in Dubai to announce new measures to curb US methane emissions. Lujan Grisham, along with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan and President Biden’s National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi, touted the rule, which they say will: phase in a requirement to eliminate routine flaring of natural gas produced by new oil wells; require comprehensive monitoring for methane leaks from well sites and compressor stations; and establish standards requiring emissions reductions from high-emitting equipment, among other measures. “New Mexico embarked on drafting our oil and gas rules at a time when the United States’ climate leadership was lagging,” the governor said in a statement. “We are proud to have laid the foundation for this national rule, which will not only reduce emissions, but spur innovation and economic development across the country.” Numerous national and state organizations applauded the new rule, with the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter noting in a news release that methane “has driven about one quarter of the warming our planet has experienced to date,” and first “became a widely known issue in New Mexico in 2014 when NASA satellite images showed the methane hotspot over the Four Corners area.” Since then, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman says in a statement: “We are proud that New Mexico has led the way on oil and gas methane and smog reductions, really helping to set a strong floor for the national standards we’re seeing today.”
Federal land offices sign MOU with Ohkay Owingeh
On Friday, officials from Santa Fe and Carson National Forests, the Bureau of Land Management’s Taos Field Office and Ohkay Owingeh Gov. Larry Phillips, Jr. signed a memorandum of understanding agreement to “co-steward culturally significant tribal places located within these federal land management areas.” According to background provided in a news release, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack in 2021 signed Joint Secretarial Order 3403 to “ensure agencies manage federal lands and waters in a manner that seeks to protect the treaty, religious, subsistence and cultural interests of federally recognized Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian communities.” The Friday agreement involves the same two federal agencies that signed the 2021 order, along with Ohkay Owingeh. In a statement, Phillips Jr said Ohkay Owingeh “is pleased to collaborate with the Forest Service and the BLM in this MOU to protect important cultural places on federal land. Protecting these places is one of our highest priorities.” In a joint statement, Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor Shaun Sanchez and Carson National Forest Acting Supervisor Jack Lewis described the forest service as “honored to have worked collaboratively with Ohkay Owingeh these last five months to get to this historic agreement” and confident the MOU “will serve as a national co-stewardship model for other federal land management agencies and federally recognized tribes who have mutual protection and preservation goals.”
PRC releases first strategic plan
The state Public Regulation Commission last week released its first strategic plan since transitioning from an elected to an appointed body at the start of the year, following an approved 2020 constitutional amendment. “Our strategic plan will keep us grounded in why we are called to public service and how we should be ambitious with our work,” Commission Chair Pat O’Connell said in a statement. The plan lays out goals through fiscal year 2026 and “will act as a roadmap to help guide this restructured commission to more effectively regulate utility, telecommunications, and motor carrier companies to ensure that these industries continue to offer reasonable rates and quality services to customers, as well as ensuring safe handling of the state’s pipeline system,” a news release says. The PRC announced last summer it was embarking on sessions for the plan with independent contractor Uniting by Design; according to the state’s Sunshine Portal, the PRC signed a $20,500 contract with the firm for its strategic planning services. All told, so far in 2023, the PRC has signed contracts with 15 independent consultants totaling close to $440,000 for services ranging from website design to auditing to “positive leadership and management training.” The strategic plan, which built off multiple surveys sent to PRC staff and “stakeholders,” includes four strategic goals for the historically beleaguered agency, including creating a “mission-driven agency”; optimizing its time management and processes; providing leadership; and demystifying the regulatory processes.
On the most recent episode of the monthly talk show New Mexico People, Places and Ideas (broadcasting at 8 am on the first Friday of the month on KUNM), host Stephen Spitz interviews state Attorney General Raúl Torrez about Torrez’s career trajectory, and his approach to the AG’s office and the state’s top legal issues. Those include Torrez’s push to have his office take over the Yazzie/Martinez education lawsuit and to create a civil rights unit focused on children. Many of the office’s priorities under his leadership, Torrez says, grow out of his early work as an assistant district attorney in Valencia County, when he became involved in prosecuting child-abuse cases. “It really started to build in me this idea that a lot of the problems that we see manifested in society in New Mexico—whether it’s problems with health care or homelessness or crime or education—are actually symptoms of a larger systemic failure to care of our kids,” Torrez says.
Up up and away
The New York Times goes behind the scenes at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, zeroing in on the volunteer crew members who spend “their spare time inflating, chasing and packing up balloons, and if they’re lucky, scoring a little airtime along the way.” Writer Steven Moity, who took his first ride this fall after joining balloon crews at Albuquerque’s festival, as well as one in the Adirondacks, reports approximately 200 balloon festivals take place across the US across seasons, providing ample opportunities for such volunteers. Doing so requires signing a liability waiver and being ready to learn, he notes. For example, JoAnn Smith and Benjamin Brown have spent more than a decade crewing for balloon pilot Jonathan Wolfe, whose volunteer crew Moity joined this year on Day 7 of Albuquerque’s balloon fiesta. Moity details the work behind the spectacle in a story that includes vivid photographs and details about the lives of the crew members. Smith, for instance, saw Wolfe’s tie-dye-patterned hot air balloon above her home in Rio Rancho several years before she met Brown at a party and, subsequently, began crewing for Wolfe. Since then, she’s traveled around the Southwest to crew for him, as well as as well as in Switzerland and Austria. “I got out there once and I never left,” she says.
Calling all book/earth worms
As regular readers of this newsletter know, we’re suckers for end-of-the-year reading lists, particularly ones as well curated and expansive as the Santa Fe Conservation Trust’s holiday offering, in which its board and staff members each shared three of their favorite reads from the last year—a mix of classics: SFCT President Quinn Simons includes Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, for instance; to new must-read releases, such as Board Member Carla Chung Mattix’s recommendation, Crossings: How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet, by Ben Goldfarb, a New York Times notable release and editors choice for 2023. The Trust’s land protection project manager, Ariel Patashnik, has a murder mystery featuring land trust staffers as victim and suspect on her list: Mother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon; while Executive Director Sarah Noss proffers Losing Eden, An Environmental History of the West by Sara Dant. Best yet, buy any of the more than 50 recommended books(!) on the list at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St.), and owner Dorothy Massey, a long-time SFCT supporter, will donate half the proceeds to the Trust for its 30th anniversary.
The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny day, with a high temperature near 45 degrees and northwest wind 10 to 15 mph.
Thanks for reading! If you’ve got 20 minutes or so, The Word recommends watching Bob and Don: A Love Story, Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio’s new documentary about Bob Newhart and Don Rickles’ friendship.