Morning Word

State Auditor: Repeat Findings in City 2022 Audit “Concerning”

Statewide fuel emissions legislation passes first committee

State auditor: Repeat findings in city’s ‘22 audit “concerning”

While the City of Santa Fe’s fiscal year 2022 audit—which city officials made public on Friday—shows five fewer findings than its FY 2021 report, auditors still identified 17 areas of varying concern with the city’s financial practices—12 of which were repeat findings from prior audits, an outcome State Auditor Joseph Maestas characterizes as “concerning.” Of those findings, Maestas writes to SFR in a statement, “the more notable findings relate to a lack of internal controls and budgetary compliance.” (We made a spreadsheet of the findings for easier reference here). In total, auditors found six material weaknesses, aka ones that indicate a “reasonable possibility…that a material misstatement of the city’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis.” Another notable finding, Maestas says, is simply the audit’s lateness. Nonetheless, he notes, the city’s 2022 audit “should not be considered reflective of the current condition of the city’s stewardship of taxpayer money as it only addresses FY 2022, which ended on June 30, 2022. We look forward to receiving the FY 2023 report,” which is also late. (And actually several of the findings in the FY22 audit have timelines for being completely addressed this year). At any rate, the city says it expects to file the ‘23 audit on May 15, about five months late. For its part, the city noted the FY 2022 audit had five fewer findings than the 2021 audit. Much of the city’s responses to the findings—all of which officials agreed with—related to outdated software and ongoing staffing vacancies exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The dedicated and professional staff of the city have been working diligently to get caught up on audits,” City Finance Director Emily Oster says in a statement. “These efforts show in the results of the Fiscal Year 2022 audit. I am especially proud of the improvements in our compliance with federal grant requirements. This audit report shows substantial progress towards achieving our goal of timely and accurate financial reporting.” City committees will hear presentation on the audit, starting with the Audit Committee on Thursday, before it reaches the City Council on Jan. 31.

Fuel standards, oil and gas rates bills, pass first committee

The House Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Committee on Saturday gave a bill that would create statewide clean transportation fuel standards its first pass, along party lines, following a lengthy discussion, the Albuquerque Journal reports. House Bill 41, sponsored by Democrat state Reps. Kristina Ortez and Christine Chandler, of Taos and Los Alamos, respectively, and President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart on the Senate side, would provide the Environmental Improvement Board the necessary statutory authority to draft and enforce a statewide clean transportation fuel standard, aimed at reducing the carbon emissions from transportation 20% from 2018 levels by 2030 and 30% by 2040, according to the bill’s analysis. The bill also would allow producers and others to trade credits, a point of contention during the hearing.The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee. The HENRC also passed on Saturday HB48, a bill that would raise the top royalty rate for oil and gas development on state lands from 20% to 25%. “Raising the royalty rate should be a no-brainer,” co-sponsor state Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, chair of the committee, said in a statement following committee passage. “We are simply asking companies to pay the same rate they pay to lease land from private landowners and neighboring states like Texas.” State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, whose office supports the bill, called its HENRC approval “a huge first step. We should capitalize on the current oil and gas boom by raising what we charge to oil and gas companies to use land that belongs to New Mexicans. The result would be huge amounts of new money for our school kids.” The House Appropriations and Finance Committee hears HB48 next. Find today’s House committee schedules here and the Senate committee hearings here.

Grand jury indicts Baldwin in Rust case

Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin once again faces charges for his role in the fatal Oct. 21, 2021 shooting that killed the film’s cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. According to a Jan. 19 document special prosecutor Kerry T. Morrisey filed with the First Judicial District Court, the grand jury used testimony from seven witnesses to indict Baldwin on two fourth-degree felonies: involuntary manslaughter with negligent use of a firearm; and involuntary manslaughter without due caution or circumspection. District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies initially filed involuntary manslaughter charges against both Baldwin and the film’s former armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, in January 2023, but the state formally dropped the charges against Baldwin last April. Gutierrez-Reed’s trial begins Feb. 21. The new indictment against Baldwin, the New York Times writes, brings the pending legal issues into focus, which will essentially be the prosecutors’ challenge to convince a jury Baldwin either used a firearm negligently or with the “total disregard or indifference for the safety of others,” despite being told the gun had no live rounds and “and even though the film set was not supposed to have any live ammunition at all.” Baldwin’s lawyers, on the other hand, will face the challenge of having to explain why the gun fired.

UNM doctor testifies on Long COVID

Dr. Michelle Harkins, a University of New Mexico School of Medicine Internal Medicine professor, testified last week before a US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee hearing focused on “Addressing Long COVID: Advancing Research and Improving Patient Care.” The hearing included testimony from patients suffering from Long COVID, as well as from medical experts such as Harkins, who, a UNM news release says, worked closely during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic with UNM’s Project ECHO, a virtual model for sharing information used by clinicians treating COVID-19 patients. “When the initial waves of the pandemic slowed,” Harkins says in a statement, “we then set up a parallel program for primary care providers struggling to identify and treat Long COVID patients” through which “my team and I have helped train over 800 local providers across the United States on how best to identify and support patients with Long COVID.” In her testimony, Harkins discussed the challenges of diagnosing Long COVID, whose symptoms are “wide-ranging” and include: fatigue, brain fog and difficulty breathing. She also advocated for ongoing research; expanded access to patients for clinical care; increased education for the public and clinicians about COVID and Long COVID; and helping to prevent Long COVID in the future. “There is yet another surge in acute COVID‐19 infections across the country,” Harkins’ testimony notes. “With the end of the public health emergency for COVID‐19, it is harder for patients, especially in rural settings or from marginalized communities, to get access to vaccines. Reducing cost barriers will improve the ability to deliver vaccines in rural clinics, institutions and in all populations.”

Listen up

Teacher, musician and bodyworker Ross Hamlin offers today’s entry into the 2024 Morning Word Playlist Project. We’ll be sharing contributions through at least the end of the month (we have our sights set on making one giant playlist out of all the entries on our next snow day/long layover, so stay tuned, but you can find all past Morning Word editions here).

1. America, Here’s My Boy” by Beck: “Hard to imagine Beck penning such a raw and gorgeous song, but I think it lands so well due to someone else (Swamp Dogg) singing it. This was from Beck’s Song Reader record, which came out after he released it in sheet music form and invited others to craft and interpret as they saw fit.”2. Kitchen” by Sex Mob: “This is just so full of all the yummy and nutritious things I need as a listener, and is also the perfect underscore for crafting winter soups and stews.”3. Waiting Is Forbidden” by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa: “A wonderfully relentless thrill ride of a song that I often come back to and that still surprises me. His quartet played at The Outpost in support of this record and it was sublime.”

4. Original Sin” by Ken Nordine: “I’ve long loved the marriage of jazz and spoken word, and this track is a delightful and dark exploration that’s full of surprises and emotions.”

5. “Frost” by Sunn: “Who couldn’t love an eleven-minute multi-textured distorted drone in C with a wintery title? Perfect for baths, snowshoeing, massages and snuggling under the covers with a warm body.”

Mapping history

When Estevan Rael-Gálvez was working on his dissertation 25 years ago examining Indigenous slavery, his focus was not on place per se. Rather, he tells SFR, he was documenting instances of Native slavery in New Mexico and surrounding states, and looking at specific examples, such as the 19th century Abiquiú politician José Manuel Gallegos, who “held Indigenous enslaved people in his household.” In the years since, Rael-Gálvez’s “interest and work in places and sites specifically has grown” and “I can now point to the fact that Santacafé was (Gallegos’) home, what we know as Santacafé today, modified as that building is, that was his home and there were Indigenous people presumably living there.” Rael-Gálvez, a former state historian who has consulted on numerous projects related to history, culture and race, will be overseeing a new New Mexico-based project, “Mapping the Architecture of Indigenous Slavery,” recently awarded grant money from The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The project is an initiative of Native Bound Unbound, a new organization founded last year for which Rael-Gálvez serves as executive director. That project, which received a $1.5 million award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is focused more expansively on creating “an unprecedented digital project centered on millions of Indigenous people whose lives were shaped by slavery,” the School for Advanced Research, the project’s fiscal sponsor, says in a news release from last year’s announcement. The smaller MAIS project coincides with a course Rael-Gálvez is teaching this semester at University of New Mexico focused on the “intersection of the built environment and Indigenous slavery.” The work overall, Rael-Gálvez says, should serve scholars and, he hopes, artists “to draw from the data to create new operas to create theater productions, poetry, whatever.” But fundamentally, he notes, “we are doing this for the descendants who have ancestors who experienced this.”

There’s no place like home

Various national media outlets made hay over New Mexico builder Abrazo Homes’ decision to name two home models after Holocaust victim Anne Frank and slave-turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman. “The Anne” and “The Harriet” did not sit well with Zillow users, as the New York Times reports, who found the listings tasteless at best. (Abrazo removed both Anne Frank and Harriet Tubman references in these homes’ descriptions following the hoopla, but not before we nabbed them if you’d like to take a look). “In her diary, Anne Frank discussed her view of the seasonally changing tree,” the listing for “The Anne” house read in part. “In honor of her, we have designed our Anne plan to maximize the view, we feel would be suitable for Anne herself. The layout in this ready to be built plan is maximized for views and entertaining.” As for “The Harriet” house’s former listing: “Just like Harriet Tubman, the icon of American courage and freedom, this home stands out amongst the crowd. The ready to be built Harriett floor plan with its distinctive elevation features an ‘entertainers’ kitchen with a bar top between the kitchen and the great room.” Abrazo Homes co-founder Brian McCarthy tells the Times the company decided to name floor plans after influential women when it was founded 14 years but recognized the floor plan descriptions were “insufficient and understand how it might come across as insensitive and lacking awareness.”

Birds sit brooding in the snow

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny day, with a high near 43 degrees and northwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Looks like more rain and snow may be on tap tomorrow.

Thanks for reading! Although Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update was partially out-of-date by Sunday (farewell, Ron DeSantis), The Word finds it funny nonetheless—though perhaps not quite as funny as the Alaska Airlines commercial.

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