Gov pushes for $30 million literacy institute
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday pushed for greater investment in statewide literacy initiatives during Early Childhood Day at the Capitol. As stressed by the governor during her Tuesday State of the State address (and in her proposed budget), she’s calling for $30 million dollars in capital to build a statewide literacy institute and another $30 million dollars to support “free literacy summer programs for 10,000 students who need to catch up to grade level.” Lujan Grisham first previewed plans for the literacy institute last September during a summit in Santa Fe that followed visits by the governor and other officials to various literacy institutes in other states, including the Barksdale Reading Institute, Kansas Center for Reading and AIM Institute for Learning and Research in Pennsylvania, and emphasized investment in a pedagogical approach known as structured literacy. New Mexico reportedly ranks last in the US for literacy. “Every student—and frankly, every New Mexican—should be given the opportunity to learn to read to the best of their ability,” the governor said during her legislative address earlier this week. “No student should be told that their progress isn’t a priority. Parents and kids deserve the very best from all of us in this room, and from our school system.” The governor earlier this week also said she’s asking for $30 million “to embed experts in our lowest-performing schools so we can identify our challenges, determine immediate solutions and give our kids vital support.” In other legislative happenings, both the state House and Senate will reconvene mid-morning Monday. Watch webcasts of floor and committee meetings here; find the complete list of bills filed so far here.
Residents remain opposed to proposed downtown demolition
Following an outreach meeting last night, state planners will return to the City of Santa Fe Historic Review Board next month to request demolition of several downtown buildings to make way for a new state office complex. The H-Board was slated to hear the cases at its Jan. 9 meeting, but told the state it needed to meet with “identifiable community groups involved in historic preservation” first. State officials have discussed constructing a new executive office building for more than a decade, with the latest concept calling for a structure that’s up to 190,000 square feet, including a multi-level parking garage, although GSD Deputy Secretary Anna Silva told attendees last night the state has not moved to its design phase yet. First, it seeks the city’s green light for demolition of a motor pool building; a maintenance building and garage; the Concha Ortiz Y Pino Building and four historic casitas off Don Gaspar Avenue. Needless to say, the plans face opposition. “Those houses—they are small—contain history,” John Eddy, a member of the Old Santa Fe Association said last night. “They are part of a continuum of a residential area, what we call the South Capitol. We are at the very bottom here of this discussion and I’m hoping we can elevate it by trying to encourage the state to come at this from another direction knowing we are concerned about this. What if we can keep these buildings? What would that look like?”
NM Senate reconfirms controversial culture secretary
The state Senate yesterday reconfirmed New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Debra Garcia y Griego (discussing starts right around 3:29 in the linked video), with a vote of 35-0, and several senators speaking in support of her ongoing work and future plans. Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, introduced Garcia y Griego with a long list of accomplishments since she started in her role in 2019, including a more than 20% increase in museum attendance, he said, in the last year alone. “Under her tenure, this department has become something New Mexicans can really be proud of; it’s become part of the attraction for our state,” Ortiz y Pino said. Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, also spoke in support, and mentioned Garcia y Griego had agreed to come with her husband to the Valley to cruise “Sonic to Sonic” on low riders to understand the “what it means to be part of that low rider subculture in the Española Valley.” Garcia y Griego’s reconfirmation seemed potentially jeopardized last February after the termination of New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies Director Eric Blinman prompted close to 120 museum professionals and public citizens to send a letter to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham raising concerns about the culture secretary’s management style. For his part, Blinman, in May, filed a federal lawsuit against Garcia y Griego, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and numerous other departments and members of her administration, alleging gender and race discrimination; as well as illegal retaliation. That case remains pending with the state moving to dismiss the claims with arguments largely based on Blinman’s status as an at-will employee. In a statement released by DOC following her reappointment yesterday, Garcia y Griego says: “I owe a debt of gratitude to state leadership for their ongoing support of the agency. In the last five years, NMDCA has made it a priority to distribute its services and resources to every county and Tribal community across the state. We will continue our excellent track record of fiscal responsibility and statewide support. I am grateful to all our agency’s employees for their leadership, devotion to our mission, and the contribution of their expertise towards a common goal.”
MVD proposes digital IDs
For anyone who has ever left the house sans wallet, a state Motor Vehicles Division proposal to develop electronic driver’s licenses and identification cards may sound appealing. MVD announced the legislation yesterday, Senate Bill 88, sponsored by Sen. Roberto “Bobby” J. Gonzales, D- Ranchos de Taos, which would authorize the MVD to offer electronic IDs at no additional cost. “Technology is always changing, and this bill will ensure that New Mexico can be at the forefront of the movement toward electronic licenses,” Gonzales says in a statement. According to MVD, eight states, including Colorado and Arizona, currently offer mobile licenses to their residents, and 10 other states are developing such programs. “We’re really excited about the prospect of being able to offer customers a new, convenient and secure means of identification,” Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke says in a statement. The department says some Transportation Security Administration facilities and businesses already accept electronic credentials and, while New Mexico law enforcement agencies do not, they are “expected to adopt the necessary technology to do so as the credentials become more widely available,” although “customers will still need to carry their physical credentials.”
Today’s playlist comes from Jen Perez, “a local finance marketer and mix tape junkie who took part in building Pandora (Music Genome Project).” We will take submissions to the 2024 Morning Word Playlist Project through the end of today, and continue sharing them at least through the end of the month. Five songs from any genre and any era. Submit here.
1. “Lift Off” by Paris Texas: “It’s like ‘We Gotta Get Outta This Place,’ except to the moon because this planet is fkd.”
2. “Wildfires” by SAULT: “A haunting anthem of resilience.”
3. “Feelings Are Large” by Bareno: “Afro House with a sacrificial techno beat. Makes your booty move.”
4. “River Sabine” by The Done Deals: “My high school friend and his wife formed this band in Austin many years ago and I love it.”
5. “Roll the Credits” by Danielle Ponder: “Danielle Ponder’s voice is a honey-soaked church cracker.”
MovieMaker magazine ranks Santa Fe #1 (again) for moviemaking
For the second year running, MovieMaker magazine has ranked Santa Fe #1 among small cities and towns on its annual list of the best places to live and work as a movie maker (in 2022 we placed third). “After a year of upheaval in the film world, one thing remains steady: We haven’t found another place with so many film opportunities per capita,” MovieMaker writes, noting that “as an added bonus, Santa Fe is one of the loveliest places on the planet, a chosen hideaway for people like George R.R. Martin, Gene Hackman and Robert Redford who could live anywhere.” The write-up also notes the excellence of the Santa Fe International Film Festival, which made the magazine’s most recent list of festivals worth the price of admission. In a congratulatory statement, MovieMaker Editor Tim Molloy says: “In our travels and research across the country, we’ve never found a place with such a strong per capita film scene,” with shout-outs to Camel Rock Studios, Santa Fe Studios, Bonanza Creek Ranch and Santa Fe Film Office Executive Director Jennifer LaBar-Tapia. For her part, LaBar-Tapia, in a statement, credits not just her office but “the local crew, film schools, foundations and industry businesses that have set up shop in Santa Fe” for the back-to-back #1 ranking. The 2024 edition, which published yesterday, sets Albuquerque at #2 among “big cities,” a comeback after last year’s slip from first to fifth place. “Albuquerque’s experienced crew base, sunny weather, and affordability have helped draw big hitters like Netflix and NBCUniversal, which have made use of Local Economic Development money for ambitious studio builds,” MovieMaker notes. “In turn, the presence of huge entities provides stable jobs that give local filmmakers the security to make their own indie projects.” Las Cruces nabbed the #8 spot in the small cities list (following its inaugural appearance last year at #7).
The Española-based Showtime cringe comedy The Curse continues to inspire commentary—two of late focused on design and fashion. The Wall Street Journal delves into a Gen Z multiple-ring-wearing trend among men, name-checking The Curse’s Benny Safdie’s character on the show, Dougie, a “flailing TV producer with stringy long hair, ripped jeans, leather bracelets and silver rings that fill each of his fingers.” The show’s costume designer Katina Danabassis purchased those turquoise and sterling silver rings in New Mexico, of course, although the story does not specify where. “There’s something about the rings where it’s like a superpower,” Safdie reportedly says during a recent podcast. “You feel like you can stop a car that’s driving at you at 75 miles per hour.” (That might explain the current traffic patterns in Northern New Mexico). Curbed names names in its look at the production design of the show that includes an emailed interview with the show’s production designer, Katie Byron. “A lot of the minimalist design came from researching passive home construction, but a lot of it also came from knowing that Santa Fe is a major character in the show and adobe architecture is very trendy at the moment,” Byron writes. On the sets, “we wanted to use furniture and pieces with soul, so we scavenged a lot around Santa Fe. We went to estate sales and markets every weekend.” And in the kitchen, Emma Stone’s character Whitney “is all about sustainability yet she clearly shops at Sprouts in Santa Fe while the rest of Española is a borderline food desert.” (Actually, nearly 30% of New Mexicans live in a food desert, according to a 2021 report from New Mexico Voices for Children; in Rio Arriba, where Española is located, 53% of the population has low access to a grocery store).
Dead of winter
For anyone who’s wondering: Spring starts two months from today. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service forecasts a partly sunny day, with a high temperature near 41 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Tomorrow looks about the same—maybe a few degrees warmer—while Sunday could see a slight chance of rain and snow showers after 11 am and an equally scant chance of snow overnight.
Thanks for reading! While trapped at home waiting for a delivery (long boring story), The Word plans to read this LA Review of Books essay comparing “Madonna-ology” with “Taylor Swift Studies,” while sampling the Sleeping Girl Mocktail (health experts’ skepticism notwithstanding).